Purpose and History

Center on Halsted's Youth Program, originally known as Gay Horizons, was founded in 1978 by fewer than ten young people. Since moving into the current Center on Halsted building, we have provided services to more than 2,000 young people across Chicagoland to help them realize their full potential through our vocational training programs, seminars and leadership development programs. In addition, we directly serve around 400 LGBTQIA and Allied youth as part of our comprehensive onsite youth programs.

Our Youth Program creates a safe and confidential environment for young people ages 13–24 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or who are straight allies (LGBTQIA). Youth programming at Center on Halsted offers a nurturing and supportive environment where youth and young adults can thrive. With a variety of programs and services, from cultural and event programming to case management and leadership development, we are committed to supporting LGBTQIA youth and young adults in a holistic manner.

We value the contributions that talented, capable, and conscientious youth offer in identifying and shaping the services they most need. We have a diverse and experienced staff with backgrounds in Social Work, LGBTQIA Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, HIV/AIDS prevention, youth leadership, education, group facilitation, and counseling, and who are responsive to the goals and aspirations of our youth. Additionally, we are aware that our patrons have a range of needs and concerns—including but not limited to coming out, identity management, sexual health education, stable housing, and employment—we aim to sustain programming that sees our youth as assets. We have an expectation of excellence for all youth at Center on Halsted and we offer programs that provide a roadmap to a successful future.

How to Become a Member!

As a youth program member, you will be able to participate in youth programming and special events at Center on Halsted. It's easy to become a member. You can call us at (773) 472-6469, ext. 437, email us at, or just stop by Center on Halsted and ask to speak to someone from the youth program. Below are some of the programs and services available exclusively to Center on Halsted youth.

Programs and Services

Youth Programming at Center on Halsted is Monday–Thursday from 4:30–7:30 p.m. On Fridays we have YOUR Gym from 4:00–6:00 p.m. where you can play basketball, dodgeball, badminton, volleyball, or a whole bunch of other sports and games. If you’re between the ages of 13-18, we also have a social group from young LGBTQIA youth called Teen Hang at the same time (Fridays 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.) Youth intakes are available by appointment, generally between 1:00–3:00 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Workshops and Programs

The youth program offers a wide variety of workshops and presentations each week that are focused on developing skills and knowledge in the areas of arts and culture, critical thinking and education, leadership and activism, recreation and sports, vocational and professional development, and sexual health and identity:

Arts and Culture
  • StART: Art Therapy Group
    A weekly art therapy group which provides a safe space for LGBTQIA youth to use art and the creative process to advance personal identity, self-expression, healing and growth.

  • Improv
    Do you like acting? Are you the type of person who likes to get in front of a group of people and ham it up? Or are you kind of shy and want to learn ways to feel more comfortable in group settings? If any of these apply, Improv might be for you! In this workshop, you’ll work with a facilitator and other youth to practice your improvisational and verbal communication skills.

  • Movie Mondays
    A weekly film screening followed by a facilitated conversation exploring themes that emerged from the film.

Critical Thinking and Education
  • Creative Writing
    This workshop provides youth with space to craft their writing and storytelling skills through different exercises, prompts, and themes, geared toward a celebration of your own unique and powerful voice. Youth will have the opportunity to not only write stories, poetry, and memoire, but to share their writing in a supportive environment, and receive thoughtful feedback.

  • LGBTQ Heritage
    Ever wonder about LGBTQIA history? Looking for a sense of community? Check out this workshop for all ages that explores different aspects of LGBTQ history from both a U.S. and global perspective.

  • Intersections
    This is a weekly discussion workshop where staff and youth interested, not just in gender, race, class, and sexuality intersections, but also a multi-disciplinary approach to discussing such topics, come together to explore connections related to social justice. Each week, we explore a different topic and discuss the implications for a world many of us dream can TRULY live up to the principles of liberty and justice for all.

Leadership and Activism
  • Community Meeting
    Every Wednesday during normal programming services, the Youth Program community comes together as one large group to discuss critical issues facing our communities, whether they be LGBTQIA, the Youth Program and Center on Halsted specifically, communities of color, and so on. Community Meeting is also a time when representatives from Center on Halsted and other agencies come in to speak with our young people about new projects and opportunities for personal and community development.

  • Youth Service Corps.
    Affectionately known as VolunQUEERS, this program provides opportunities and support for young people to develop leadership skills through volunteer service in the youth program and beyond.

  • Youth Leadership Academy (YLA)
    Through encouraging youth leadership development, the YLA enables youth and young adults in our program to develop a deeper understanding of how to effect change in our communities and in the world at large. The YLA creates a space for youth to share engage in processes that inform many decisions about programming.

Recreation and Sports
  • Your Gym
    For young individuals who are interested in flexing their athleticism and fitness join us every Friday for Basketball, Volleyball, Dodgeball & other fun activities to get their heart-rate pumping!

  • Yoga
    Youth interested in cultivating some mindfulness and meditation head this way. This workshop is designed to help you come in decompress from the stressors of the outside world. Each yoga session is followed by a half hour of tea and talking. Let’s take some time out of our busy days to rest and relax.
Vocational and Professional Development
  • Ya Betta Werq!
    This workshop will provide you with support around job interview etiquette, email etiquette, creating or updating a resume, and researching and applying for vocational or educational opportunities.

  • Cyber Center Youth Support
    Come to the Cyber Center to learn how to use basic computer programs including, but not limited to: Microsoft word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Sexual Health and Identity
  • Un-Erased
    This discussion group focuses on the concerns and major issues facing bisexual, pansexual, queer, and other sexually-fluid (Bi+) communities. Discussions range in topics from talking about the types and effects of stereotypes of Bi+ folks, the ways biphobia and monosexism impact our communities, and famous Bi+ figures in history!

  • Coming Out Group
    This workshop provides a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQIA youth ages 13–18 to help build healthy self-awareness and personal identity through affirmation, conversation, and community building.

  • Let’s Talk About Sex
    This is a workshop for youth to come together to collectively explore topics related to sex, sexuality, and sexual health in an environment of acceptance and understanding. This workshop encourages a shift from a culture of shame and ignorance around sex toward one that supports curiosity and information sharing.

  • Beauty Group
    Beauty group is a workshop for transgender and gender non-conforming female identified youth to come together to discuss and explore what it means to be beautiful, both inside and out. This workshop offers support around how to carry and present yourself in a way that helps you to feel both confident and fabulous.

  • Teen Hang
    Teen Hang is a social group for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. Many young LGBTQ people often have a difficult time meeting other queer youth in their age range, and Teen Hang offers a space where this can happen in a safe and affirming way! There’s a different activity every week, but it’s always fun and a great opportunity to make new friends!

Community Night

On the third Wednesday of every month the youth program comes together to engage in a community learning activity or experience, and to celebrate youth who are graduating from the program, who have celebrated birthdays in the past month, and to present a youth program member every three months with the Youth Excellence Award for outstanding achievement and effort toward meeting their personal goals. We hope you will consider joining us in celebration of our community.

Adult Ally Support

Adult Allies are available to meet with youth program members one-on-one to offer support with housing, education, employment, and health related needs. Adult Allies work with youth to develop a plan that outlines each youth’s strengths, vision, and unique goals, and to identify what is getting in the way of meeting those goals as well as what steps youth can take toward accomplishing those goals. Adult Allies are also able to refer youth to culturally competent, supportive services and programs in order to get additional support in any of the areas listed above.

Health and Wellness

The Youth Program at Center on Halsted is committed to providing youth centered and youth driven health services, education, and advocacy. Health services are non-judgmental and focused on your individual needs.
  • U4U: Mentorship into Care for HIV+ Youth
    U4U is a new program that provides mentorship support for qualifying youth by both peer Health Promoters and an adult volunteer mentor. The program also provides participants with direct support in finding resources and navigating health systems in the Chicagoland area. For more information, please email

  • HIV Testing and Counseling
    In collaboration with the Center on Halsted’s HIV Department, Health Educators are available to answer questions you might have, offer free and confidential HIV testing and counselling, and provide support with linkage to medical care.

  • Medical Clinic
    Center on Halsted in partnership with Heartland Health Outreach offers a free walk-in medical clinic for youth program members once a month during programming hours. The dates will be posted each month. Come in to meet with a doctor, get a connected to health services, and sign up for health insurance.

  • Counseling and Therapy
    Youth Program staff and counselors are available to meet with youth one-on-one to offer counselling and support around dealing with and growing from difficult and stressful situations. The Youth Program employs two youth-focused, culturally competent clinicians, a Youth Clinician who works with youth 13-18 and a Transition Age Youth Clinician who works with youth ages 19-24. To meet with a Youth Program counselor please email

  • Youth Backpack Project
    Center on Halsted is grateful for the additional support of community members who came together in meeting the needs of our youth. The “Center on Halsted Backpack Project” helps to support our youth by providing additional resources they may need to navigate their lives. Click here to learn more!

Legal Advocacy

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless offers a free walk-in legal clinic for youth program members on Wednesdays from 1:00–2:00 p.m. Come in to get legal advice, learn about your rights, and receive support around obtaining a birth certificate, or changing your name or gender marker.


Center on Halsted in collaboration with Truman Community College offers a free 8 week GED program to help youth and adults prepare for and pass their GED examinations.


In addition to our vocational workshops, Center on Halsted partners with TransWorks, a program of Chicago House, to provide transgender and gender non-conforming youth and adults with support through a 3 week employment readiness skill-building workshop.


After continuing to listen to the needs of young people, Center on Halsted approved a Youth Housing Strategy composed of implementing two goals. The first is for Center on Halsted to operate a cluster site housing program for youth from the existing Youth Program, developing a model to be replicated across multiple neighborhoods in Chicago. The second, and subsequent, is for Center on Halsted to have a new Youth Intentional Permanent Housing building in operation, housing LGBTQIA youth experiencing homelessness with wrap-around services, in a supportive community.

Now in its second year of operation, the Youth Housing Initiative currently supports ten youth in safe, long-term housing. To learn more information, click here!

Contact Us

We want to hear from you. If you have questions about our program or would like to become a Center on Halsted youth member, please call us at 773.472.6469 or send an email to  

Copyright © Center on Halsted3656 N. Halsted Street  |  Chicago, IL 60613  |  773.472.6469