From a heated CAPs meeting on July 6 to comments on a Facebook page called “Take Back Boystown,” the Center on Halsted has been facing a lot of criticism over the past few weeks on the heels of recent crime in Boystown.
Some residents have been arguing that the Center’s clientele, many who come from South and West Side neighborhoods where LGBT resources are scarce, are at the root of the violence. There have been complaints that when the Center closes at 10 p.m., some visitors loiter around the neighborhood throughout the night, causing trouble and committing crimes.
RedEye talked with five patrons in their 20s who were hanging out on the sidewalk outside the Center Wednesday to get their opinions on the facility and if they felt it is being portrayed fairly in the media recently, along with what they think about residents’ accusations that they’re the ones creating problems in Boystown.
Here’s what they had to say:
“No, I don’t think the Center is being portrayed accurately by the media. As far as the stuff that’s been going on in the community, people just have to educate themselves on what the Center is. There’s all that stuff about, people don’t know what the center is and they see stuff in the media and say, oh well, why is the media questioning them if the center is not responsible for the violent acts going on in the community? So people immediately jump to conclusions without understanding, without education.
The Center on Halsted does a very good job of making sure that its security team knows who the troublemakers are and who are the good people. If the troublemakers are in the building and they’re not making trouble they’re allowed to be in there. However, if they start making trouble in the building the security team is immediately on it and they’re immediately banned. The Center does a very good job of working with the community to show the community that one, they don’t like troublemakers and two, they don’t want troublemakers in the community just as much as everyone else, considering that they are an LGBT community center and they are in the LGBT community. I would say that there are a lot of people that come from other neighborhoods to positively participate in the programming here at the Center on Halsted, so people don’t understand that those people are in communities that are extremely racist, extremely homophobic and they come up here for the simple reason to feel safe and secure and participate in programming in a comfortable way. Now if it should just so happen that there’s other people, troublemakers, praying [preying] on the surfaces that people are positively participating in they don’t want that. Other people don’t want that and that’s what the community as a whole needs to realize. The Center doesn’t want it and Center on Halsted patrons don’t want it either.”
-Kevin McManus, 23, Bridgeport
“I come up here just to be comfortable in my own shoes, to be around people in the LGBT community, just to feel comfortable around people like me. But I’ve been robbed up here by my own type, my own kind, so it’s very contradictory to point fingers.
A lot of people don’t understand [the Center on Halsted]. They should take a tour or something. They have services for straight people too. “
-Kloee Jones, 23, Boystown
“I think that the Center on Halsted is being portrayed [fairly in the media], as far as making actions toward the stabbing incident, but as far as youth in general, if you are a minority, or if you are not privileged GBLT youth, then you are shunned against in this building. I feel like they do not want any minority GBLT people here because for the most part the people who work here, the employees and their co-workers treat us like shit — excuse my language — but that’s how they treat us.
So, I mean, I feel like as far as the stabbing incident, yeah, they’re doing something, you know, to make themselves look good as far as the media goes, as far as that, but just generally doing for the youth and doing for the youth in Lakeview, they do not.”
- Zanareyah Mattel, 22, Rogers Park
“I think that Boystown needs to wake up and realize that a lot of people come here from the South Side and West Side with nothing and just want to be themselves. We have to stop scapegoating people.
If they’re tired of people hanging out in this neighborhood on corners or whatever there needs to be more services at BYC (Howard Brown Broadway Youth Center) and the Center on Halsted so we can find jobs and housing easier and maybe we’ll have money to spend at the bars and restaurants.
I appreciate everything the Center and BYC do for us, but the services they have are still pretty minimal. You get out of people what you put into them, and if the only expectation you have of people is that they come up to the doorside, they come up to Boystown and get a meal and a bus card from the Center or BYC and then, you know, just kind of hang out and do whatever on the streets that’s all you’re gonna get. But if you’re like, yeah you can be a contributing member of our society and our community and your opinions and experiences are valued, it would be something that would strengthen our community and people like us offer the diversity that our community needs.
And the fact that they’re pointing the finger at poor queer, LGBT youth who come up here with hardly anything, and we don’t cause a lot of trouble. Sometimes we hang out on corners and stuff, but its always on the main roads, its never right in front of somebody’s house or anything like that.”
-Temara Jasmine, 23, living in Lakeview
“The stealing and all that comes … from the homeless youth that need stuff and they go to the places and steal. But other than that, like the stabbings and the fighting, it’s not [the homeless youth] really. It’s brought back [to the Center on Halsted] because everybody thinks that everybody that’s in those fights, in those arguments, are hanging out here, but the people that do fight and stab and all that other stuff, don’t even really be here. They don’t come here.”
-Rico Mattel, 20, Uptown