At United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, we are committed to building knowledge and capacity around issues disproportionately impacting members of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride United, our newest donor network, aims to address these issues with the Pride United Equity Fund.
The goal of the Pride Unite Equity Fund is to provide a funding opportunity for the urgent needs of organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community. Funds were raised by Pride United, a group of LGBTQ+ leaders, allies, and advocates, and will be invested in nine organizations. Pride United gives, advocates, and volunteers in issue areas in the Queer community that will drive measurable investment, change, and impact in our four-county footprint. Funding decisions were made in partnership with the Pride United Council.
Here are the organizations that have been selected for funding opportunities:
Black Space operates in an inclusive infrastructure with free group therapeutic sessions being tailored specifically to individuals who fall in the categories of Black and Brown women, the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community members, and Black and Brown men as the true eradication of systemic oppression is found in addressing problems that are specific to these communities. Funding will support their Group Therapeutic Experience sessions for the LGBTQ+ community in partnership with Milwaukee Art Museum, Medical College of Wisconsin, and Diverse & Resilient. Black Space will provide four mental wellness modules to decrease the stigma surrounding therapy, increase the accessibility to quality therapy, educate participants in coping mechanisms, and increase the treatment for trauma in the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community.
Courage Initiative Limited, DBA Courage MKE
In 2019, Courage MKE opened Wisconsin’s first home for displaced LGBTQ+ youth. The Courage House is a licensed group home on Milwaukee’s south side. In Spring 2022, Courage MKE became the first group home in the Metro Milwaukee area to receive Qualified Residential Treatment Program Certification from the state of Wisconsin. Courage MKE has noticed that frequently residents are coming to them with severe suicidal ideologies. Funding will be used to provide staff with in-depth suicide prevention training and certification. They will also provide staff training in processing vicarious or secondary trauma themselves.
Diverse and Resilient
Diverse & Resilient (D&R) was founded as a program to build the capacity of LGBTQ+ groups and has grown to be the largest LGBTQ+ organization in Wisconsin. They engage in advocacy and provide both capacity-building and direct-service work to address the health disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ people in Wisconsin. This grant will help D&R provide an intersectional approach to ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth who are system-involved or have a history of homelessness are prioritized to receive basic needs items. Funding will go to providing personal hygiene items, clean clothing, rapid COVID testing kits, CDC approved face masks, and financial assistance in the form of gas cards, bus passes, rideshare passes, and/or food gift cards.
FORGE reduces the impact of trauma on trans/non-binary survivors and communities by empowering service providers, advocating for systems reform, and connecting survivors to healing possibilities. FORGE serves the trans and nonbinary (TNB) community through both direct service and training and technical assistance to those who provide care to TNB communities. Funding would go to support a multi-day Mental Health First Aid course for TNB community members. Mental Health First Aid empowers those it trains to recognize and usefully interact with people who are struggling with mental health and/or substance use issues. This intervention is critical for the TNB community, since many TNB individuals are reluctant to access mainstream social services due to fear of mistreatment. Having a member of your own community to talk to may therefore be the intervention that can save a life.
This project will be led by FORGE staff, who will work closely with trans-aware Mental Health First Aid instructors.
Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, Inc. (GSAFE)
GSAFE works to increase the capacity of LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families to create schools in Wisconsin where all youth thrive. For over 26 years GSAFE has served as Wisconsin’s statewide organization advocating for safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ+ youth. Funding will be used to cover staff time and travel, potential venue fees, printed event materials, and other incidentals related to the implementation of a K-12 Curriculum Rapid Response Initiative in partnership with Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. In-person and virtual community education events will help students, educators, school leaders, parents, and community members plan community-specific responses to current or potential challenges to LGBTQ-affirming curriculum, practices, and library materials. Requests for assistance from communities facing these challenges continue to grow - including several this past year from communities within the Pride United Equity Fund’s four-county footprint. Their aim is to increase the capability of project participants to effectively engage and persuade school leaders and community decision makers to continue practices that support and affirm LGBTQ+ youth.
Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center
The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Center, or GLIIHC, has a mission to “improve the health, peace, and well-being of urban Indians in the Greater Milwaukee area.” Native American youth who also identify as LGBTQ+ Two Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) face a dual risk for mental health issues. Funding will go towards re-launching an Identity Empowerment Circle this summer which faced recruitment challenges in the past two years due to COVID-19. This is an 8-week therapeutic group to support youth in forming a strong sense of identity through accepting and empowering relationships. The goal is to build self-awareness, amplify and discover unexplored strengths, and increase self-confidence and compassion through expressive and cultural activities (art, games, storytelling, music, etc.), group discussion, and educational materials. This group will serve as an entry point into other opportunities offered at GLIIHC, which are extensive and culturally affirming for Native youth (moccasin making, beading, outings with other youth, the Youth Empowerment Project for youth ages 7-17, community health fairs and other events at which young people can gather and/or volunteer, and much more). The overarching goal is to provide youth who identify as Native and LGBTQ2S+ with opportunities to connect in a way that is culturally relevant, culturally affirming, and identity-affirming for all youth.
Guest House of Milwaukee
The mission of Guest House of Milwaukee is to provide shelter, housing, education, and services to Milwaukee’s homeless who seek to transform their lives with dignity and purpose. Launched in 2020, Marsha's House is a five-bedroom home that offers a safe, welcoming, and affordable living space to LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness, with a specific focus on transgender youth (18-24) and adults. Funding will be used to increase capacity at Marsha’s House by repairing and furnishing a fifth bedroom (lumber, hardware, drywall, paint, bed frame, mattress/box spring, etc.). Any remaining funds will be used for repairs of household appliances such as the dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer.
Health Connections Inc.
Health Connections, Inc. is dedicated to the practice of primary care, behavioral health, and health-related social services care coordination. Even though they are a medical clinic, they are widely recognized as leaders, advocates, and community partners for promoting and providing health care education and outreach for all throughout greater Milwaukee and beyond just the clinical setting. Funding will support the continuation of Health Connections Name and Gender Change program that began in 2020. The program assists transgender patients in achieving their goal of legally changing their names (and if possible) their gender. The urgency of this funding lies in the fact that gender dysphoria is literally and directly decreased when clients can have their legal documents match the name and gender that they identify with as opposed to the name and gender that they were assigned at birth.
RW Enterprises, LLC
Ricardo Wynn (RW) Enterprises is an LLC committed to building the capacity of organizations committed to serving Black and Brown communities. Over the last three years, RW Enterprises has launched the Empowering Community Action Initiative, which is a grassroots community led initiative focused on building healthier Black LGBTQ and Same Gender Loving (SGL) communities throughout Milwaukee and surrounding areas through education, special events, advocacy, and other community efforts with an emphasis on House and Ballroom communities. Funding will go to support MKE Vogue Nights, which fuses “House” and “Ball” culture to create safe and queer-affirming spaces for BIPOC sexual and gender minorities to celebrate their queerness through runway categories of dance, modeling, and performance in order to develop self-confidence and resilience skills necessary to advocate for themselves, access prevention resources, and thrive. Through MKE Vogue Nights, they have the opportunity to conduct deep, repeated, culturally-relevant community engagement and education with our beloved community of QTBIPOC individuals about COVID-19 vaccinations, correlated COVID-19 health impacts, and COVID-19- exacerbated social determinants of health in order to address pandemic inequities in Milwaukee County. Furthermore, this will also allow them to continue additional services including HIV/STI testing services and resources.
TRANCE Consulting LLC/Elle Halo
Elle Halo is a dedicated LGBTQ+ Health Equity advocate and educator. Fighting for equity, educating, and supporting QTPOC communities through organizing and activism is her personal and professional goal. She is an experienced facilitator, panelist, and moderator – often tapped by local organizations and working pro bono. Elle is well-known in the community for her advocacy on trans issues. She is the current Senior Community Co-Chair of The Statewide Action Planning Group for HIV/AIDS of WI, and member of the board of directors for Diverse and Resilient. Elle is a member of The Inclusive Restroom Working Group for The Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission, the Wisconsin LGBTQ+ Policy Advocacy Coalition, and SHEBA/ Diverse and Resilient. She regularly participates in Community Advisory Boards for Community Promise, Vivent Health, Peer Support Specialists for Diverse and Resilient, and Houze La Femme.
Elle is working to launch her consulting business, TRANCE Consulting LLC, which will build the infrastructure needed for speaking engagements, consulting services, and promote some of her own programs (like the Paris Ticca Mahone Memorial Transition Fund). Investment will go towards tech and media equipment, promotional materials, business cards, consulting logo, and website completion, salary, and other business-related expenses to launch the LLC.