After establishing the organization Courage MKE in 2015, Brad and Nick Schlaikowski have opened the Courage H for LGBTQ+ youth in need of a place to call home.
Courage MKE is an organization that provides housing and other important resources to homeless LGBTQ+ teens in Wisconsin. It was founded in 2015 by Brad and Nick Schlaikowski, a gay couple dedicated to making the lives of LGBTQ+ youth better in any way they can. This past June, they decided to take things a step further and open Courage House, a place where homeless LGBTQ+ teens can temporarily call home when they need to, PEOPLE reports. According to The Trevor Project, 40 percent of all homeless youth in the United States are, in some way, part of the LGBTQ+ community, which makes the Schlaikowskis' initiative so much more important.
Courage House, as explained on their website, is Wisconsin’s first home for displaced LGBTQ+ youth. The House is a licensed group home on Milwaukee’s south side and the foundation assists residents with counseling, healthcare, life skills, and family reunification. They also make sure all children enjoy the same home and family environment that anyone would. They were able to set up The Courage House with the help of community volunteers and partners including Kohl's, Lowe's, Kohler, and Sherwin Williams.
According to Brad and Nick, they were inspired to open up the home after they decided to foster a teen named Annette. She was kicked out of her home by her parents when she came out to them as a lesbian. "Until we became foster parents, we had no idea how many kids in Milwaukee were not sleeping at their parent’s homes every night," Brad explained in an interview on The TODAY Show. "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. I can’t fathom sleeping behind a dumpster when it’s negative 20 degrees outside."
The house has three bedrooms and one bathroom. Brad and Nick spent 18 months renovating the building while managing their full-time jobs and raising their children, three from Brad’s previous marriage and Ivy, whom the couple adopted in 2016 after fostering her for some time. Less than a month after opening its doors, The Courage House welcomed its first resident. At present, the house is at maximum capacity, with five residents calling The Courage House home. In addition to providing the basic necessities to LGBTQ+ teens in need, The Courage House has also become a way to spark conversation and initiate dialog about LGBTQ+ issues as well as how to get involved. Nick stated, "We’re strengthening the community by doing our best to send really awesome, powerful adults into the world that otherwise probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to do that. We’re just kind of like, pushing it forward and hopefully creating really strong leaders that are going to take over and make the world better." Brad added, "Bringing these children into our house taught them that everyone needs to be, and deserves to be, loved." Hopefully, the Schlaikowskis' kind actions will inspire more people to get involved!
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 19, 2019.