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Dads Open Group Home To Shelter Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth

Even if it doesn't feel like there should be a reason to worry about embracing who you truly are, the world is sadly not always so simple.

While members of the LGBTQ+ community may have anticipated varying degrees of acceptance from their loved ones when they came out, there's often at least some anxiety about how they will react. Unfortunately, that's because it's still hardly unheard of for families to reject people when they make this revelation.

And while that result can certainly be difficult for an independent adult, it becomes outright devastating for youths. After all, not only do they have to deal with the emotional turmoil of that rejection, but even basic matters like where they're going to live after all is said and done.

For this reason, the actions of one Wisconsin couple are not only lovely to hear about, but potentially life-saving.

Before they started their mission, Brad and Nick Schlaikowski of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin were already used to having a lot of kids in the house.

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As Today reported, the couple have three kids from Brad's previous marriage. Eventually, they would also welcome an adopted daughter named Ivy.

The couple began fostering Ivy in 2016, and over a year later, her adoption became finalized.

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A few years after she arrived in their home, however, she would have even more kids to call her siblings than it might seem.

That's because in 2015, Brad had the idea to host a fundraiser to support LGBTQ+ youth who found themselves with nowhere to go.

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This led to the foundation of the organization he and Nick run together called Courage MKE. And the couple would see a lot of reason to expand that organization's mission when they started fostering children.

The way they saw the world changed after they fostered a teenager named Annette.

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After hearing about how Annette was disowned for being a lesbian and felt unwelcome at the women's shelter she first went to, the Schlaikowskis started to become aware of how commonplace homelessness is among LGBTQ+ youths.

As Brad told Today, "Until we became foster parents, we had no idea how many kids in Milwaukee were not sleeping at their parents' homes every night."

Although many of these teens couch surf or stay at friends' homes, some sleep behind dumpsters or in alleys.

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According to a 2017 study from the University of Chicago, LGBTQ+ teens have a 120% greater risk of experiencing homelessness than heterosexual or cisgender teens.

As Brad said, "I can't fathom sleeping behind a dumpster when it's negative 20 degrees outside."

And so, the couple got to work opening a special home for these youths to feel safe and supported.

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This was difficult as both Nick and Brad have full-time jobs and thus had to rely heavily on volunteer efforts to make the 18-month renovations on the home possible.

They also had difficulty securing zoning board approvals, but also found financial support from the community and through sponsorship to help see the task through.

What is now called the Courage House opened in June of 2019 and welcomed its first resident within a month.

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It has since reached its maximum capacity of five young people and has earned the distinction of being the first group home for LGBTQ+ youths in Wisconsin.

In addition to shelter, the Courage House provides its residents with access to therapy.

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It also has programs in place to facilitate access to healthcare, development of life skills, and even family reunification whenever possible.

Brad and Nick said that their own children have accepted the residents as siblings while they stay at Courage House.

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As Brad said, "Bringing these children into our house taught them that everyone needs to be, and deserves to be, loved."

h/t: Today