Center on Halsted

Center on Halsted

Center on Halsted is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community center in Chicago, Illinois.

The Center on Halsted was designed as a space which through its programming would attend to the cultural, emotional, social, educational and recreational needs of the LGBT community.

The new convert|60000|sqft|m2|sing=on facility contains a variety of spaces: Meeting space for community organizations, gathering space for youth and for older adults, Hoover-Leppen Theatre, Billie Jean King Recreation Hall, Richard M. Daley Roof Garden, and others. The building’s green elements include natural ventilation, daylighting, post consumer and post industrial materials and many others, and have earned the building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification.

Construction of the permanent site kicked off with groundbreaking ceremony on June 14 2005. The facility officially opened on June 5 2007.


"In a safe and nurturing environment, the Center on Halsted serves as a catalyst for the LGBT community that links and provides community resources and enriches life experiences." []


"A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender journey… celebrating, affirming and discovering possibilities." []


1973 to 1980

1973"Gay Horizons" begins as a volunteer-run information clearinghouse and a meeting place for gays and lesbians. The "HELPLINE" is the first program of "Gay Horizons" established for people to access information and referrals for social, professional, recreational, and medical purposes. "Gay Horizons" inaugurates its youth coffeehouse at Liberty Hall on Lincoln Avenue.

1974Some volunteers, who are gay medical students and serve clients through the "Horizons Clinic", form an organization to provide medical services to the LGBT community. This clinic is organized for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (the clinic later separates and becomes Howard Brown Health Center). "Gay Horizons" becomes incorporated (501(c)3 status is granted). "Gay Horizons" moves into the Beckman House and takes up operation of the "Gay Switchboard."

1975"Gay Horizons" moves to 2745 N. Clark St., above the Astro restaurant. The agency at this time has a drop-in center.

1976"Gay Horizons" begins to shift from its initial focus on social activities to providing mental health and social services to those most in need. A peer counseling program begins: "Gay People’s Counseling Service".(This program is "Horizons second formal program and later evolves into "Educational & Support Services".) "Gay Horizons’" Executive Board votes to allow the Howard Brown Health Center to become a separate organization. A "Youth Program" is formally adopted. (This program later separates from "Horizons""' and the agency’s "Youth Services" program grows from these first meetings).

1977"Gay Horizons" moves to a one-room basement space on Oakdale.

1978"Gay Horizons’" first "Youth Group" meets—a group of fewer than ten—mostly Caucasian and two African American middle- and working class teenagers, and their lone advisor—a mental health professional who volunteered his services as program coordinator. These first members are mostly just out of high school—18to 22 years old. (Later a policy is implemented that only youth between the ages of 14 and 20 may join; currently the ages of participation are 13 to 24.) "Gay Horizons" forms the "Women’s Union" as part of a campaign to reach more women. At the same time, the "Gay Switchboard" becomes the "Gay and Lesbian Switchboard." Groups for bisexual men as well as a "growth group for womyn" are initiated. The precursor to the "Speakers Service" is started as part of the "Gay Peoples’ Counseling Service".

1979"Horizons" "Youth Program" officially begins. "Gay Horizons" holds the first “Identity Conference,” beginning a tradition that continues for several years. Horizons moves to a new location at 3225 N. Sheffield, which subsequently becomes the home of the Rodde Center. A research center and library are included (the Gerber/Hart Librarycollection’s first home). "Horizons" begins renting space from a branch of Hull House at 3212 N. Broadway; a community outreach program and a coffeehouse are planned for this “Horizons East” venture. "Legal Services Program" begins, ensuring availability of legal advice to LGBT people regardless of their ability to pay.

1980"Gay Horizons’" "Youth Group" opens a coffeehouse as an alternative to the sexualized atmosphere of the bars (which many of the youth are too young to enter). "Gay Horizons" becomes affiliated with a gay and lesbian parents group that has been meeting since early 1978. "Horizons" also becomes affiliated with Lambda Resource Center for the Blind, which was founded in late 1979. Major board reorganization (including the first African American board member) and a more professional approach are occurring at Horizons, which by now has an annual budget of under $30,000. Horizons begins responding to the AIDS crisis.

1981 to 1990

1982"Gay Horizons" begins "Psychotherapy Services" with nine volunteer therapists.

1982"Gay Horizons" begins recruiting volunteers to participate in an AIDS services project co-sponsored by the Howard Brown Health Center. The "AIDS Action Project" is "Horizons’" response to the looming HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Lambda Resource Center/Gerber/Hart Libraryspins off from Horizons.

1984"Gay Horizons" hires its first paid staff (part time). Howard Brown Health Center absorbs duties from the "AIDS Action Project".

1985"Gay Horizons" begins "PASSAGES", a support group for the “worried well” and other people whose lives are affected by the AIDS epidemic in various ways. Horizons conducts the first community wide needs assessment and initiates the "Anti-Violence Project" with support from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. The Metropolitan Business Association’s award of merit is given to "Gay Horizons". Youth from "Gay Horizons" appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show, bringing widespread attention to the group and national recognition to the needs and problems of gay youth. The name "Gay Horizons" is changed to "Horizons Community Services, Inc."

1986"Horizons" now has two full-time staff: an Executive Director and an Administrative Assistant.

1987The "HELPLINE" celebrates its 5,000th night of continuous operation by volunteers. "Horizons" is honored by the Chicago March on Washington Committee at the National March on Washington.

1988"Horizons" hires a Youth Director through a grant from the Federal Substance Abuse Prevention Program. "Horizons" is awarded the contract for the "State of Illinois AIDS Hotline" —the primary source of information regarding HIV disease and AIDS available throughout the State of Illinois. "Horizons" holds its first Lesbian Wellness Conference and receives federal Victim of Crime Act funds through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority which enables Horizons to fund the "Anti-Violence Project", the nation’s first federally funded, exclusively lesbian and gay anti-violence program.

1989"Horizons" achieves full membership in the United Way of America—the only gay/lesbian agency in Illinois, and one in five in the United States, to do so at the time. "Horizons" hires its first "Development" and "Group Services" staff.

1990"Horizons" relocates to 961 W. Montana. It begins conducting LGBT-sensitivity training for Chicago police officers. "Horizons" now has fifteen paid staff. IVI-IPO Independent Gay and Lesbian Caucus presents the 1990 Glynn Sudbery Award to "Horizons Community Services". First Annual Human First Gala is held.

1991 to 2000

1991"Horizons" receives funding from the Chicago Community Trust for a paid, full-time criminal court advocate for the Anti-Violence Project. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations honors "Horizons" with its “Award of Merit,” which recognizes “ . . . Horizons’ efforts to reduce homophobia and to assist the victims of anti-gay and anti-lesbian crime.” "Horizons" receives a letter from Mayor Richard M. Daley supporting and honoring "Horizons’" outstanding services, specifically the "State of Illinois AIDS Hotline".

1992"Horizons" is inducted into Chicago’s Gay/Lesbian Hall of Fame. The "Horizons" board achieves gender parity. The United Way of America awards a three-year Discrimination Grant to expand the "Anti-Violence Project". The grant enables "Horizons" to increase training efforts in African American and Latino/a communities and to initiate civil proceedings in discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation. The director of the "Anti-Violence Project" receives the Greenhouse Appreciation Award at the Chicago Abused Women Coalition Annual Benefit, honoring "Horizons’" work on behalf of battered women and children. "Horizons’" "Anti-Violence Project" is awarded the John Michie award from Dignity Chicago on behalf of its outstanding efforts in education and advocacy. The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS recognizes "Horizons" with its 1992 “Excellence in Care” award for providing outstanding services to men, women, and children in Chicago affected by AIDS and HIV-related illnesses. The "Youth Service Program" is awarded a grant from the Lincoln National Insurance Company.

1993"Horizons" sponsors the Midwest’s first conference on gay and lesbian issues in the workplace. The "Anti-Violence Project" releases its first annual documentation of anti-LGBT hate crimes in Chicago. The "Horizons Youth Group" sets a record by having 100 youth in attendance for a meeting. "Horizons" is awarded a two-year $100,000 general operating support grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

1994"Horizons" hires its first "HELPLINE" staff, and part-time coordinator of Volunteer Services. The "Anti-Violence Project" begins training police officers. The "State of Illinois AIDS Hotline" is transferred to Test Positive Aware. The United Way of America “Excellence in Service” Award is granted. For the second year in a row, "Horizons" receives an “Excellence in Care” award from DIFFA/Chicago (the local chapter of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS). A record turnout of almost 600 persons helps "Horizons" celebrate its twentieth anniversary at its Fifth Annual Human First Gala.

1995"Horizons" Southside Youth outreach is funded. "Horizons’" budget reaches $1.2 million.

1997"Horizons" begins programming and advocacy for older LGBT adults with the "Mature Adult Program."

1998Mature Adults, Motivated & Active program is expanded.

1999"Anti-Violence Project" begins assisting LGBT survivors of domestic violence. "Horizon’s" "Youth Services" program begins collaboration with About Face Theatre. The agency Web site [] goes live. "Legal Services Program" begins a new project, Mediation Services, to assist disputing parties.

2000Chicago Park District property at the corner of Halsted and Waveland becomes available. Horizons enters negotiations with the City of Chicago and the Park District to acquire the property. "Horizons’" professional staff grows to 24. The volunteer corps consists of more than 300 people. "HELPLINE" implements a new computerized database and call-tracking system to gather demographic information and provide referrals.

2001 to Present

2001"The State of Illinois AIDS/HIV & STD Hotline" returns to "Horizons". The "Center on Halsted" project is launched. The property is secured on North Halsted and extensive research begins on the needs and interests of the LGBT community for a community center. The "Community Technology Center" is launched. "Youth Services" adds a "Young Women’s Program". NortHalsted Merchants Association donates the first seed money for the "Center on Halsted" building project.

2002Organizational commitment to cultural programs begins in response to community research. The City of Chicago gives $350,000 to "Center on Halsted" for the capital campaign.

2003"Horizons Community Services" officially changes its name to "Center on Halsted". The silent phase of a $20 million capital campaign is launched. A new Board of Directors for "Center on Halsted" is formed, tenant agreement with Whole Foods Market for the new center is completed, and all programs are reorganized into three departments—"Mental Health, Youth," and "Community and Cultural Programming". The State of Illinois awards Illinois First grants totaling $6.5 million for the capital campaign.

2004"Center on Halsted" launches the Public phase of the capital campaign. The first annual "Anti-Violence Vigil" is held.

2005Construction for the "Center on Halsted" building on Halsted and Waveland kicks off with a groundbreaking ceremony. Building design by Gensler. Design grant for Green Building is awarded from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Center on Halsted is awarded grants from The Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, totaling $950,000, including an $800,000 challenge grant. "Career Development for Youth" program is launched. "Center on Halsted" receives a $1 million capital campaign gift from philanthropist Miriam Hoover. U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) announces that $1.25 million has been secured for construction of "Center on Halsted" from the Fiscal Year 2006 HUD appropriations bill. "Center on Halsted" relocates its offices to 2855 N. Lincoln Ave. following condemnation of the property at 961 W. Montana.

2006"Center on Halsted" announces new funding for its expanded "Just4Adults" program which will be renamed "SAGE" at "Center on Halsted". The City of Chicago gives $350,000 to "Center on Halsted" for the capital campaign. The "Youth Program" launches a new "Mentoring Program".

2007Ribbon Cutting Ceremony is held on June 5, 2007. The opening celebration includes a gala on June 8, 2007, called "Out & Open".

Green Elements

*Green Roof
**Reduces urban heat island effect; both treats and slows the release of storm water.
*Rainwater Harvesting System
**Collects, treats, and uses storm water/ground water for flushing urinals and toilets; reduces building potable water use.
*Natural Ventilation
**Gym, Youth Space and Lobby use natural ventilation to reduce HVAC loads.
*CO2 Monitoring
**Monitors carbon dioxide levels to reduce HVAC loads when spaces are unused.
**All perimeter, gym and lobby lighting automatically dim to daylight conditions.
**Materials have high post consumer and post industrial recycled content, are low emitting, and all wood is FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council).


"Horizons Youth Program" for LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24) is a safe, supportive, and confidential space hosting social programs, addressing prevention issues related to HIV/AIDS, STDs, and substance abuse, and promoting leadership, vocational/career development, recreation, and healthy self-esteem.

Addressing all facets of mental health, including but not limited to personal growth, anxiety, loss, and sexual orientation, the "Mental Health Services" offers individual, couples, family and group counseling with LGBT mental health experts in addition to professional development workshops and training through the Sexual Orientation and Gender Institute (SOGI) at the Center on Halsted. The Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) Program is also administered through Mental Health Services.

Anti-LGBT hate crimes, domestic violence, sexual assault, discrimination, and police misconduct are a small list of the concerns that the "Anti-Violence Project" handles. The 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (773.871.CARE), operates 365 days-a-year, as staff work to fulfill roles of advocates and community educators.

"Community and Cultural Programming" includes a variety of dance, music, theatre and other programming intertwined with alternative activities such yoga and pilates. A list of LGBT-focused and –affirming venues is also maintained and is available on request.

"LGBT Information Line" is available most days of the year to handle issues such as HIV/AIDS, coming out, diversity and much more, in addition to community referrals and professional, spiritual, medical, educational and social resources. An Information Line counselor can be reached at 773.929.HELP (4357)

"Legal Program" offers free access to legal information and referrals via legal hotline at 773.929.4357

"Illinois State HIV/AIDS & STD Hotline" provides confidential information about HIV/AIDS and STDs, in addition to testing and counseling site referral across Illinois, from 8:00am to 10:00pm, seven days a week at 1.800.AID.AIDS (1.800.243.2437). An online database of information, testing sites, and counseling services is also maintained at


"Preventing HIV: Ethics, Activism, and Promising New Strategies"" a free, day-long lecture series hosted by the Center on Halsted and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago on June 27, 2007. The event is organized into three parts: a morning talk - "The Brave New World of HIV Prevention: Human Rights, Human Risks" by amfAR's acting director for public policy Dr. Monica Ruiz, a mid-day lecture - "Public Health: Is it Good Medicine for Women Impacted by HIV?" by world-renowned activist Louise Binder of the Canadian Treatment Action Council and Voices of Positive Women, and an evening session with Susan Kingston, a methamphetamine expert from Seattle, titled "Crystal Meth Uncensored: What the DEA and the Gay Media Won't Tell You." Breakfast and lunch will be provided for all [ registered participants] .

ee also

List of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community centers

External links

* [ Official web site]
* [ "McKeon Honors Center on Halsted Groundbreaking"] by Laird Petersen, 6/14/2005, 8:00:00 AM
* [ "Horizons to Change Name, Identity Morphs into 'Center on Halsted'"] by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times, 2003
* [ "If you build it, will they come?"] , Time Out Chicago, 2007

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