Historically, Howard Brown Health Center has been a site for the LGBTQ community, known for their health care and research. Founded in 1974, Howard Brown has become one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) organizations. However, in just one year, they have been a leader in COVID response and recovery on the South and West Sides of Chicago.
“Primary care is something that I don’t think a lot of queer people think about. Not because we don’t want it, but because there is no model who fits us specifically. But Howard Brown is queer health for everyone, a health home,” said Casey Callich, Communications Manager at Howard Brown Health.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Howard Brown noticed low testing and vaccination rates, so they responded with urgency to meet the needs of their residents. Through their partnership with the National Museum of Mexican Art, Task Force, Project Vita and two local churches, testing and vaccination sites were set up at several Howard Brown locations across Chicago. To date, they have completely vaccinated 17,897 people and 36,560 received at least one dose.
Casey noted that Howard Brown centers racial equity and representation in their work, which is why they have provided COVID response to predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods. United Way partners with organizations like Howard Brown Health to serve the LGBTQ community because we recognize the importance of collective action to build a stronger, more equitable region.
“The fantastic consequence is that people are more familiar with our model of care and with Federally Qualified Health Centers, in general, that provide a different kind of care than a for-profit model,” explained Casey. “We continue to be a resource and grow where people meet us.”
Howard Brown’s goal is to reduce health disparities for the LGBTQ community and provide healthcare to those who need it, regardless if they can pay for it or not. One of their primary services is the Broadway Youth Center, aiding LGBTQ houseless youth with medical assistance, mental health and basic needs services.
In the fall, Howard Brown plans to open up a five story building that will serve as the new permanent location of the Broadway Youth Center. The building will include floors dedicated to vocational, clinical, and behavioral health services with space for community programming. The expanded Broadway Youth Center will sit at 1023 W. Irving Park Road, keeping its doors open to all, with a continued focus on the queer and trans community.
Through this expansion, Howard Brown is making a lasting impact across the region with -12six centers each on the North, South and West Sides of Chicago. The Health Center has paved the way for affordable health services that are inclusive to all residents, regardless of race, gender or sexuality. Serving the LGBTQ community since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, they have grown to meet the needs of residents across the city.
“Our physical footprint is expanding in the city and my hope is that we still maintain a closeness with our community and continue to respond to their needs in a timely manner,” said Casey.
The important work of Howard Brown is personal for Casey, who is a trans woman. Casey remarked that she has never felt more seen and accepted than she has while working at the Health Center. As we celebrate Pride Month, Casey hopes that every LGBTQ person feels welcome, just as she was, when they step through the doors of any Howard Brown Health Center.
“Pride is where we owe everything. It’s not just a celebration, it’s a movement forward,” Casey added.
This Pride Month, show your support for LGBTQ organizations like Howard Brown Health to help them provide affordable health care services for everyone. Donate today!
By Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist