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Afternoon Shift

Center on Halsted celebrates 5 years in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood

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(Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)

You may have heard that President Obama made a big announcement last week. The President told Robin Roberts of ABC news that he believed same-sex couples should have the right to marry. The announcement sparked excitement for gay rights activists, and agitated the political divide that the issue causes for the right and left. But it was the excitement that was felt Saturday evening at the Center on Halsted's 5th anniversary gala. Director of Public Affairs Brian Richardson says that host Andy Cohen and performer k.d. lang both lauded the president's remarks, but conceded that there is still plenty of work to do to help the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

This is where the Center steps in. Center on Halsted calls itself the most comprehensive community center dedicated to building and strengthening the LGBT community in the Midwest. They say 1,000 people a day walk through the center's doors in Chicago's Lakeview East neighborhood. While Richardson says its the youth programs that often get attention from the media, there are also programs that help older LGBT people into senior lifestyles. The Center works to pair members of this group so they can stave off isolation, providing them with companionship and guidance as they seek out new housing in their later years.

Richardson says young people often come to the Center after being kicked out of their homes. They have been rejected by their families, classmates and peers. Staff at the Center provide therapy and a case manager is on-site to help get homeless teens shelter. They also put young people in area schools for vocational training programs.

Although the Center on Halsted has become a touchstone for the neighborhood, it hasn't been without controversy. Last summer, a string of violent incidents in the area raised concerns for residents. Contentious CAPS meetings pitted condo owners and renters against patrons of the center, claiming the young people were causing trouble once they left the Center. But Center on Halsed Executive Director Miguel "Tico" Valle told WBEZ's Odette Yousef then that suspending services would cause a greater problem, as many of them have nowhere to go.

Valle joins Steve Edwards on Afternoon Shift to discuss the future of the Center on Halsted, and if new programming is part of its future.

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