Two dads co-founded a new group home for homeless LGBTQ youth in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Brad and Nick Schlaikowski first realized what a big problem homelessness is in the LGBTQ youth community after they became foster parents. The couple’s first foster teen, Annette, had been kicked out of her parents’ house for being a lesbian. She went to a women’s shelter, but didn’t feel welcome.
“Until we became foster parents, we had no idea how many kids in Milwaukee were not sleeping at their parents’ homes every night,” Brad told Today. He added that many of those kids end up couch surfing or sleeping at friends’ houses. Others must sleep outside.
The experience inspired them to create a non-profit to support LGBTQ Youth, Courage MKE. In June 2019, the organization opened its doors to Courage House after an 18-month renovation. The house is Wisconsin’s first licensed group home for LGBTQ youth.
“I want them to know that there’s a door they can knock on and get a hot meal and a shower and a soft pillow to sleep on,” Brad said. “I can’t fathom sleeping behind a dumpster when it’s negative 20 degrees outside.”
Courage House can house up to five young LGBTQ people at a time. It provides a safe, warm place to sleep and hang out, plus on-site therapy and support with health care, life skills, and family reunification.
Brad told Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express that there is an average of 500 kids on the streets of Milwaukee at night, 40% of whom identify as LGBTQ.
“We know that five beds won’t put a huge dent in it, but they will provide some help for five special kids,” he said.
But this isn’t the end of the road. If Courage House is successful, Brad and Nick plan to open more group homes in Wisconsin.