Two dads from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin are making sure that LGBTQ youth can have a place to call home.
According to Today, Brad and Nick Schlaikowski are co-founders of Courage MKE, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for homeless LGBTQ youth. In June of this year, the organization opened up the Courage House, the first licensed group home for LGBTQ youth in the state of Wisconsin. The House is now the home of five LGBTQ youth and provides on-site therapy, help with healthcare, life skills, and family reunification.
Taking care of LGBTQ youth has been a solid goal and dream for the couple since they adopted their first daughter in 2014. They then started fostering LGBTQ girls who came through the system. Its then that the couple became aware of the horrors that LGBTQ youth are facing.
“The girls would come home and tell us these stories,” said Brad to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “and it broke our hearts.”
“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.
“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,” he added. “I can’t fathom sleeping behind a dumpster when it’s negative 20 degrees outside.”
While maintaining their full-time jobs, Brad as an accounts payable manager for Veolia North America and Nick as a district manager for a separate company, they held an event for the city’s LGBTQ youth. They ended up raising $15,000 and decided to make the charity organization with that money.
In remembrance of that first successful event, the organization holds an annual gala to fundraise money for the organization and support LGBTQ youth. In 2018, the gala passed the fundraising goal and raised more than $70,000 to fight LGBTQ homelessness.
“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,” Nick said. “We’re just kind of, like, pushing it forward and hopefully creating really strong leaders that are gonna take over and make the world better.”
But now that the Courage House is running and at full capacity, it’s time to move on to the next house. The Schlaikowskis hope to open more houses in the future and are in talks with allies in Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas. They have also started a new fund to prepare for the opening of a second house in Wisconsin. All of this, the couple repeats, is for the betterment of LGBTQ youth in need of support and love.
“I’m looking forward to that light-bulb moment for them to know that they were not as alone as they were,” said Nick.