In honor of Pride Month, we’re spotlighting LGBTQ organizations and leaders in the nonprofit space. Today we talk to Fredy Roberts-Ramirez of Chicago’s Broadway Youth Center (BYC)
About Broadway Youth Center
Broadway Youth Center was founded in 2005 by a group of nurses who wanted to reach homeless LGBTQ youth. With one dollar, they started the organization in the basement of a church. The center has moved several times over the years and in August 2021 will open a $12,000,000, five-story building on Irving Park and Sheridan, in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The new building will feature walk-in and appointment-based medical and mental-health services, dance studio, and a lounge specifically for trans and nonbinary youth.
The Center is a full-service organization providing everything from showers and laundry to HIV screening and mental health services and medical care for LGBTQ youth. During Covid, the Center set up a tent at which they saw between 50-100 young people a day. They provided walk-through services, including gift certificates for groceries.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Fredy moved to Milwaukee as a young child. After leaving foster care at the age of 16, Fredy experienced homelessness. It is knowing firsthand the struggles that homeless LGBTQ youth go through that motivates Fredy in their work. They “want young people to be able to help themselves be sustainable and stable.”
Fredy’s path to nonprofit work is unusual. As a child, they thought about becoming a lawyer and later a fashion designer or other work in the arts. But, being homeless meant that dream jobs had to be put aside while they focused on survival. Fredy frequently worked two to three jobs at a time. If Fredy could give their younger self one piece of advice, it would be to stay put and get an education. Fredy hopes their work at the Broadway Youth Center allows other LGBTQ youth to have different options.
As a drag performer in Milwaukee, Fredy often used their platform to encourage people to get HIV screening. Local health workers saw the impact Fredy was having and hired them as a health educator. Fredy eventually attended the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and received a certification in Non Profit Management.
Fredy moved to Chicago and began working with Howard Brown (the parent organization of the Broadway Youth Center) in 2017. A grant from the CDC for High-Impact HIV Prevention Projects among Transgender and Non-Binary youth of color allowed the organization to open a drop-in center on the South Side of Chicago, Southside Safe Space (Triple S). Fredy started on the project as a coordinator, eventually becoming a manager, and this year they became the Associate Director of Quality and Best Practices.
Working in the HIV prevention field, Fredy feels like there is LGB representation, but not always Trans and Nonbinary representation. They know that in peer-to-peer services, you get better outcomes when clients see people who look like themselves. Fredy hopes to increase representation of all types.
One day, Fredy would like to be ED of a nonprofit similar to Broadway Youth Center, but specializing in trans resources. Fredy would also like to return to performing. They feel the creative outlet helped them not only personally, but because young people were attracted to their drag persona, it helped them reach people professionally as well.