Youth and Family Services

Click to view the January 2024 Youth and Family Services Calendar

Click to view the February 2024 Youth and Family Services Calendar

Purpose and History

Center on Halsted has been supporting LGBTQIA+ young people since 1973 when it inaugurated its youth coffeehouse at Liberty Hall on Lincoln Avenue to provide a safe space for socializing, identity affirmation, and community building. Since moving into the current Center on Halsted building in 2007, we have provided direct services to approximately 400 LGBTQIA+ and allied youth each year, and over 3,000 young people overall.

In July 2022 After a six-month strategic review, Center on Halsted made some exciting changes to how it serves Chicago’s LGBTQ+ youth. For years, the Center has been a Chicago leader at providing a wide array of life-saving and life-changing programs and services to LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, including its one-of-a kind transitional housing program in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. However, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become even more clear that all LGBTQ+ youth need a variety of supports in order to grow into happy, healthy, and contributing members of their communities as adults. Multiple studies and surveys have shown that LGBTQ+ youth face higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, substance use disorders, and violence than their non-LGBTQ+ peers.

In order to address the needs of these young people Center on Halsted has expanded its scope of services to support all of Chicagoland’s LGBTQ+ youth, regardless of housing status, and LGBTQ+ families as well. Today, Center on Halsted’s new Youth & Family Services department provides:

  • Social, recreational, cultural, and educational programs
  • Opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth & families to connect, build community, network, share resources, and affirm their LGBTQ+ identities
  • A new mentoring program
  • A revamped Youth Advisory Board
  • A summer leadership academy
  • Robust arts programming
  • Anti-violence/anti-bullying programs
  • Youth & family behavioral health services
Some programming is just for LGBTQIA+, questioning and allied youth, some is just for their parents/caregivers, and some is for both. The Center also offers programs and services for LGBTQIA+ individuals who are parents/caregivers as well. Click on the links below for more information on the various kinds of programs we provide or reach out to us directly at

LGBTQ+ Affirming Youth Groups

To Be Human (TBH) is Center on Halsted’s weekly all-inclusive youth group for 7th-12th graders who are LGBTQ+, questioning, and allies. TBH is a brave space for youth to make friends, build community, learn new skills, become more confident in their queer and trans identities, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

To Be… QTPOC is a brave space designated for 7th- 12th grade LGBTQ+ young people of color. To Be… QTPOC provides a space for queer and trans young people of color to discuss and explore their experiences within the LGBTQ+ community and in society at large.

To Be… TGNC is a brave space designated for 7th-12th grade transgender, non-binary, agender, gender expansive and questioning youth. Together youth and staff create a network of support, care, resistance, and creative, joyful resilience.

To Be… BI+ is a brave space for 7th- 12th grade youth who are bisexual, pansexual, on the bi spectrum, and exploring their bi+ identities. To Be … BI+ is a judgment-free brave space where the truth of everyone’s identities is recognized and our place in the queer community is celebrated.

After School Hang is a space for LGBTQ+ school-aged youth and allies to make friends and build community in an LGBTQ+ affirming environment. Queer, trans, and questioning youth and their allies in 7th – 12th grade are welcome to come to the Center’s youth space during Afternoon Hang to socialize, play games, do homework, meet with staff, or just hang out in a space designated specifically for them.

Lavender Living is a peer support and social group for LGBTQ+ young adults, ages 18-24. Programming includes group discussions, career presentations, cultural events, skill shares, games, social activities, and art projects designed to support young people transition into adulthood.

Youth Development

Youth Horizons: COH’s youth mentoring program builds caring relationships between LGBTQIA+ youth aged 12 -24 and adults to help youth grow in their queer and trans identities, make progress towards personal goals, and become lifelong contributing members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Over the course of year, mentor/mentee pairs spend at least four hours per month together, participate in quarterly program meet-ups, and receive ongoing training and support. For more information, contact Hannah Rapp at Applications for mentors and mentees are due November 15 and can be accessed here:

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.

Mentor application: Click Here

Mentee application: Click Here

Youth Advisory Board: COH’s revamped Youth Advisory Board is for LGBTQIA+ youth aged 12-18 who want to make a difference in their community. Board members meet twice monthly, starting in January to provide the Center with the vital youth perspective on how improve and grow its programs and services as well as develop programs, events, and service projects to make positive changes in their community, culminating in the planning the Youth Pride Space at the June 2023 Pridefest. Youth Advisory Board members receive a stipend for their work! For more information, contact Hannah Rapp at Youth Advisory Board applications are due November 15 and can be accessed here.

Ralla Klepak Performing Arts Program

Percussion Classes/Youth Pride Drum Line: Hosted in collaboration with Chicago Percussion, COH’s percussion program offers youth the opportunity to explore the world of drumming and learn the skills necessary to be a part of COH’s Youth Pride Drumline group. There drumline provides ongoing performance opportunities, including participating in Chicago’s annual Pride Parade in June.

Master Class Series: To promote excellence in the arts, Youth & Family Services is continuing its Master Class youth performance series. Each year, we match 4 youth with individual professionals in their crafts to give guidance and mentoring to help the youth hone their skills. Master Classes consist of a live performance and session with the professional, along with a private session to further improve their skills. If interested, please fill out the following google form: Click Here

Dare to Drag: Center on Halsted’s drag education program, Dare to Drag! is presented in collaboration with TaskForce Chicago, a grassroots organization committed to improving the sexual health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth of color on Chicago’s West Side. This year’s program features three cohorts of 5 - 7 students who will learn about the basics of drag, including performance, make-up skills, dance, and confidence. Each Cohort culminates in a performance, allowing the youth to show off the skills that they have learned in our Dreams of Drag Showcase in COH’s Hoover-Leppen Theater as well as an encore performance at TaskForce.

The above programs are made possible by support from The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts. Learn more about the legacy of Ralla Klepak here.

The Ralla Klepak Foundation

Additional Art Programming

Arts Workshops: Youth and Family Services provides ongoing arts workshops in various art forms for youth. Art forms vary from month to month, and include print making, portraiture, landscape painting, Improv, creative writing, and more! Check out our monthly calendar for current offerings.

Family Programming

QFAM is Center on Halsted’s programming for families of LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ parents’ families. QFAM events are typical family-friendly events, such as movie nights, holiday celebrations, and family picnics where LGBTQ+ families get to mix and mingle with families that look like their own. QFAM is also a brave space to gather in observance of LGBTQ+ specific holidays, memorials, and actions. Youth and Family Services partners with cultural and community centers across Chicago to offer family-oriented activities and events that reflect the intersectional identities of Chicagoland’s LGBTQ+ communities. QFAM programming occurs monthly at Center on Halsted, on various dates and times depending on the nature of the event.

Transformers: Transformers is a monthly peer-led support group for parents and caregivers of trans children. The group meets on the third Thursday of the month, and provides participants with the opportunity to connect, build community, network, share resources, and support each other.

Virtual Programming

Q Chat: Q Chat is COH’s weekly 90-minute discussion group on the chat platform known as Q Chat Space. Q Chat Space hosts online discussion groups that give teens 13 – 19 years old a safer space to meet other LGBTQ+ and questioning teens from around the world and discuss topics relevant to their identities and experiences. It is not a forum. It is a live chat; there is no video or audio. Everyone is chatting during the same time. Chat topics vary from week to week and include from coming out to gender affirming self-care, from Dungeons and Dragons to Pokémon, and more! COH’s chat occurs every Tuesday from 6 – 7:30pm. For more info and to sign up for a chat visit

Discord: The Youth & Family Program’s new Discord server provides LGBTQ+ youth more opportunities to connect with other LGBTQ+ youth like themselves in a fun community where they can talk to other youth about topics relevant to their lives as young queer people. Our online youth community enables youth aged 12 - 24 to access resources, get updates about upcoming programming, and virtually meet other LGBTQ+ youth in the community. To join our Discord, go to

School-Based Programs

Youth & Family Program Staff are available to lead presentations and workshops in schools for students, teachers, and parents. To learn more about our offerings and to schedule an event contact Our school-based programs include:

Professional Development Workshop: : Youth & Family Services staff offers in-school workshops for teachers, staff, and administrators at Chicago schools to help them better support their LGBTQ+ students. Topics include: LGBTQ+ 101, Implementing LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula, and how to support queer and trans students in the classroom/school environment.

Student Workshops: Youth & Family Services staff offers LGBTQ+ affirming in-school workshops for students at Chicago schools. Topics include Queer and Trans Young Adult Literature workshops, LGBTQ+ 101, LGBTQ+ history, LGBTQ+ media representation, anti-bullying workshops, effective allyship and more, based on school needs/requests.

GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Support: : Youth & Family Services Staff provides support to school GSAs on an as needed basis. Support varies from help in setting up/organizing the GSA, planning events, providing tours of the Center, and leading special topic workshops.


To learn more about our Youth Housing Program, 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  

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