Homeless and displaced LGBTQ youth in Milwaukee now have a place to temporarily call home thanks to the care of a dedicated local couple.
Brad and Nick Schlaikowski founded Courage MKE, an organization that provides housing and resources to homeless LGBTQ teens, in 2015, and this past June, expanded the operation to include Courage House.
Located on the city’s south side, Courage House is the first licensed group home for LGBTQ youth in the state, and provides its residents not only with a warm bed, but with counseling, health care, life skills and family reunification, according to its website.
Brad and Nick were inspired to open Courage House after fostering a teen named Annette, who had been kicked out of her parent’s home because she identified 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 told 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.”
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The house welcomed its first guest less than a month after opening, and is currently at max capacity, with five residents.
Brad and Nick — who have three children from Brad’s previous marriage, plus Ivy, whom they adopted in 2016 after fostering her — spent 18 months renovating the three-bedroom, one-bathroom home, and balanced the work with their full-time jobs, they told TODAY.
Nick said its progress was aided in part by members of the community, as well as corporate sponsors like Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Kohler and Sherwin Williams, according to the Courage House website.
“Bringing these children into our house taught them that everyone needs to be, and deserves to be, loved,” Brad told TODAY.
For Nick, opening Courage House is an opportunity not just to provide a temporary housing solution, but to spark a conversation and open a dialogue that could inspire change.
“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,” he said. “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.”
According to The Trevor Project, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.