Kenneth Young Center to open LGBTQ+ youth resource center in Schaumburg
A LGBTQ+ youth resource center officially opens in Schaumburg this week, in what is seen as the first bricks-and-mortar locale in the Northwest suburbs solely dedicated to serving that population on a daily basis.
Kenneth Young Center, the Elk Grove Village-based mental health and older adult support services organization, on Friday will host a grand opening of its LGBTQ+ Youth and Young Adult Center within its new Schaumburg office, 650 E. Algonquin Road Suite 104.
From 4 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, on what is National Coming Out Day, the center will host a ribbon-cutting and open house. One key supporter who will be there is Kevin Morrison, the first openly gay member of the Cook County Board.
"Right now, most residents in and around Cook County have to travel to North Halsted (in Chicago)," said Morrison, of Elk Grove Village.
"For many youth in the Northwest suburbs, that's out of reach. I think it's vital for there to be safe spaces in every community."
The facility arose out of discussions of the North Suburban Community Network, a 25-member group of social workers, school staff, health care providers and faith leaders who work with LGBTQ+ youth.
Sherrine Peyton, one of the group leaders who also is Kenneth Young Center's community collaboration division director, said group members mapped out where in Chicago and the suburbs LGBTQ+ youth can find services. They discovered most resources to be in the city.
And while a number of social service agencies in the suburbs provide resources to the community, not many specialize in offering LGBTQ+-specific services, said Nicole Barrett, a Kenneth Young community collaboration team manager.
At the same time, new Kenneth Young Center President and CEO Grace Hong Duffin, named to the position in 2018, asked her staff what services the organization was providing to that population.
The early discussions eventually led to the agency receiving an Illinois Department of Human Services grant aimed at preventing violence and delinquency for people ages 11-24.
Peyton said there's a higher percentage of LGBTQ+ youth who are targeted for bullying and sometimes not completing school due to societal and family issues.
"There was a need for an organization to create a space where youth can come and access services and talk to one another," she said.
Starting this week, the center will host weekly group meetings for teens (ages 11 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 24) within its Rainbow Room, which is decorated with photos and art and furnished with couches, chairs, tables and a TV. The sessions will be led by a social worker and serve as a forum to discuss issues youth and young adults may be dealing with.
The LGBTQ+ center shares space with other nonclinical community health support services Kenneth Young provides in its Schaumburg office, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Peyton said youth and young adults can stop by anytime to access resources, such as help finding an LGBTQ+-friendly physician or college.
Or visitors can simply come to read, watch TV or use the computer.
"Whatever it is to have a positive, healthy life, we want to help them to make it come to fruition," Peyton said.