Watch the video above to hear “Come Back Home”, a song created with the girls from Courage House in mind by Phillip LaRue.
I was asked recently about the importance of Courage House being first and foremost a home. “It’s everything,” I said immediately—because so many of our girls have never truly had one.
For the past 18 years, my mantra and purpose have been solidified into one phrase: Build them homes and call them family. Courage House exists as a place to belong, a place to call home, a place to heal. It exists as a place where others believe in you until you can believe in yourself.
The intention of Courage House is a tapestry, intentionally woven with a compassionate staff, an atmosphere of hope, wide open spaces, healthy relationships, and an abundance of love. This tapestry has brought healing time and time again to girls who have crossed our threshold, welcomed immediately by the sign at the threshold saying, “Welcome Home.”
But it isn’t easy.
In the video above, the lyrics are a tough depiction of what “home” has felt like for our girls: “It’s hard to come back home when you never really had one…Is that why you keep running from it, because you never really felt it, because it never really lasted? The very hands that held you only let you fall.”
Many girls who call Courage House home are in the foster system—they were removed from their homes and families due to neglect, violence, or physical and/or sexual abuse, then moved to a strange place with people who are strangers. It’s easy to forget they had siblings they miss, a grandmother they love, a pet they adore, a school full of friends. In most cases, these children aren’t happy about losing all they’ve known and loved—even if the abuse has stopped. This is why they run, leaving them vulnerable to traffickers who prey on and target this exact type of child.
Knowing this truth, we know they want to run, and we plan for it. We create an atmosphere of hope and healing, and we pray they stay.
One didn’t. She was the third girl to walk through the doors of Courage House. I met her in juvenile hall at 15 years old, though she looked 12. I fell in love immediately, despite the suspicious look on her face. I shared with her about Courage House and told her I believed she was created on purpose for a purpose. Her choice, ultimately, was juvenile hall or us. Though skeptical, she chose us.
In her first three months, she did really well, though she told us once we were “too damn happy all the time.” Then one day, after a call with her biological mom who was in the throes of addiction, she decided to leave. She had been removed from her family but the pull for them was stronger than the few months she had spent with us. As Courage House isn’t a lockdown facility able to prevent residents from leaving, she walked down the ¾ of a mile long driveway and onto the street. The Sheriff Department, state social worker, and I were called to look for her, but by the time we had arrived, she was already gone. We spent hours looking for her, unsuccessfully. I went into her bedroom at Courage House and prayed she would be safe.
That was 14 years ago. In the years since, I have had no idea if she was dead or alive—until yesterday.
I cried when I saw her name on the message, asking for me to call her. The very first thing she said to me after 14 years was, “I’m so sorry I ran away. Courage House was the best home I ever had. I so wish I had never left.”
We talked for hours as she filled me in on the last 14 years. She had runaway from multiple other places “that were not like Courage House.” This three-year cycle ultimately resulted in her being sent out of state to a lockdown facility due to her refusal to stay in one place. On her 18th birthday, they gave her a bus ticket and wished her luck. Although she was finally free to return to her family, her disappointment and pain made her fertile ground for bad choices—choices she took full responsibility for. But through it all, she remembered all we had taught her at Courage House and decided she wanted more for herself.
She began making healthy choices that led her to a good job and a good guy. She was engaged, happy and healthy, clean and sober, and ready to create her own home. She told me her mom had also been clean and sober for six years and she felt like she had a new mom—one that reminded her of me.
I told her were working to open another Courage House in Nevada and her response was immediate: “Keep building. Girls like I once was need a home—they need people like you.”
This is why we do what we do—build them homes and call them family. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.
Do you want to be a part of this story and help us bring true home to these survivors? You can join us by donating today to their home and to their future.