Hi, my name is Alton Dueks. I’m the Youth Program Case Manager at Center on Halsted. My first interaction with the Center was as a young person in search of community for LGBTQ youth. I’d searched through the phone book for a program, and the only place I could find was Gay Horizons (the predecessor and inception of what we know now as Center on Halsted). At that time, Gay Horizons was completely volunteer-led and only met about one time a week. Little did I know that I’d end up working at the youth space that young me needed. Now, Center on Halsted is a place that is open for LGBTQ youth on a daily basis.
In my role, I have the opportunity of watching the youth really develop. A special example of this is Ziggy, a youth participant who I’ve been working with for a few years now. He first started coming to the Youth program because he’d previously ran away from Canada, then to Ohio, and eventually, Chicago. Just days before he came to Center on Halsted, Ziggy was shot and had to flee his living situation.
When he walked through our doors, Ziggy had nothing but the hospital bandages on his hand from his wound. The entire Center on Halsted Youth Program team worked with him to complete paperwork, retrieve his passport, get a job, gain housing stability, and support his mental health.
I remember Ziggy coming regularly to the youth department, and we’d search for jobs for hours until one day, he got an interview. We practiced his interview skills, and even ironed some slacks for him right here in the office. Eventually, Ziggy got a job where he’s still employed over two years later. He’s also been maintaining his own apartment for almost a year and regularly comes back to the Center to check in with us. We’re all very proud of him.
Working with Ziggy, and seeing his success is the reason I do this work, but we rely on community support to be able to do so. With a small internal team, this support allows for us to supply youth with the access and tools that they need and deserve.
When you make a gift to Center on Halsted, you are contributing to the Spirit of Joy that I see when youth participants notice impactful change happening in their lives.