Statement from Milwaukee Magazine:

We recently received feedback from members of the community that one of our Unity Award winners, Courage MKE, faced allegations from former staff of Courage House that are outlined in a public petition. While we did not discover this petition before granting the award, after looking into the allegations and the steps taken since, we believe Courage MKE remains worthy of recognition. The organization’s mission and the services it provides for our LGBTQ+ community in Milwaukee are profound.

Many organizations in our city and across our country are striving to do and be better. Very few, if any, have gone through a journey without making missteps, and we sympathize with those hurt by such mistakes. We also believe in good intentions – and in the power of second chances when we fall short.

The hallmark of a courageous organization is a willingness to learn and continuously improve. This applies to Milwaukee Magazine, too. Going forward, we will engage in a more comprehensive review to account for the full picture of our award nominees. We will also include more perspectives in our review committee to properly reflect the richness and diversity of our community. And, in the spirit of unity, we welcome your ideas about what more we can do.

We are grateful to live in a community with all our Unity Award winners and among neighbors who want us all to be better.

Statement from Courage MKE:

We firmly believe that the quality of care the residents at Courage House received both in the past and now aligns with the promises and commitments that we made to our community. So often our residents come to us with unimaginable traumatic experiences in their lives.

In 2021, concerns raised by former employees were brought to our attention. Although Courage MKE has often echoed frustrations similar to those brought to light by former employees, such as the accessibility of resources and services that are beyond our scope of work due to limited public funding, we paused and took a closer look at our operations and challenges. Since that time, we extensively invested in evaluating Courage House to ensure that the experience of the entire Courage MKE family (staff, volunteers and residents) was improved upon and strengthened.

Our review included interviews with current staff and residents by an independent consultant, as well as a separate examination of policies, procedures and our employee handbook. While the results of the independent evaluation did not substantiate many of the claims made by those who raised the concerns, we nonetheless effectuated substantial changes within the organization, including a restructuring of Courage House leadership, with the goal of ensuring our leadership shared firsthand and personal understandings of the experiences of our residents. We also adjusted policies and procedures, and developed best practices guidelines. We have enhanced training on diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of the organization. Lastly, a third-party consultant with experience in restorative practices reached out to our former staff members who expressed concerns with the intention to listen, hold ourselves accountable and heal.

We have kept regulatory and accreditation agencies apprised throughout this process and remain in good standing with the state, and have even, just this month, earned a state certification designed for youth with serious mental health or behavioral needs. Courage MKE is the first group home in Milwaukee to receive this certification.

We welcome the opportunity to continue to grow and learn, in order to best serve Courage MKE residents. Though it is challenging and uncomfortable to have negative viewpoints aired out in a public forum, of course, their doing so created an opportunity for us as an organization, to reflect on our values, commitments and overall experience for those who matter most: our residents.