LYTE Collective Aims to Reduce Homelessness on SouthSide

LYTE Collective serves young adults impacted by poverty and homelessness. Their mission is to support every young adult, end harmful systems that cause young people to need help in the first place, and build a more just and equitable world together with all who aspire to do better by young people.

Lyte Collective Chicago DefenderAccording to a 2021 report, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, over 10,000 teens ages 14-24 are homeless, and over 26,000 single young adults are experiencing homelessness. For young people finding access to basic needs and support is a series of waiting lists. While the number of people experiencing homelessness in Chicago has declined, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unknown but is expected to increase.

According to the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing estimates, over 20,000 Chicago households are at risk for eviction with the moratorium expired.  Black and brown youth are affected at disproportionate rates. Of the number of homeless teens and young adults, 81% of homeless youth comprises black and brown youth. Lack of affordable housing and the lack of a living wage are just a few reasons black and brown youth struggle with homelessness and poverty.

LYTE Collective is founded on the principle of Living in Truth as articulated by human rights leader Václav Havel (LYTE = Live Your Truth Everywhere). It is not only too hard for youth in dangerous situations to get help; they often experience more harm from social service agencies when they seek that help. So in 2014, LYTE’s Collective’s founders came together to do it differently and hope that, in turn, others will, too.

The Lyte Collective purchased space in the Greater Grand Crossing/Chatham neighborhood. The new “Lyte Lounge” is a community center for young people impacted by poverty and homelessness. Young people will be able to come to this center for Holistic Support. The new center will give young people access to meals, showers, laundry, and more. Clinically-trained professionals also staff the Lounge to connect youth to safe housing and provide mental health support. In addition, community providers will regularly be onsite to provide physical health services and legal assistance.

LYTE Collective Chicago Defender
Rendering of the Lyte Lounge Gym.

In addition to having their basic needs met, young teens and adults will also have access to employment and education support along with recreational activities. LYTE Collective will support young people as they pursue educational goals to increase their potential for economic stability. Education programming at the Lounge will include adult basic education, literacy, high school enrollment, GED completion, and college admission.

At the Lounge, the staff will support young people to gain employment, increase their income, and protect their rights in their workplace. To help secure job opportunities, LYTE staff work to build relationships with employers throughout the city and hire youth for a range of staff positions within the organization.

At the center of this programming, recreational activities in creative arts, music, sports, and dance will help support identity formation and skill-building, all while providing a safe space for youth in the community.

The building, located at 549 E. 76th Street, is a significant undertaking for the LYTE Collective. In need of extensive repairs and renovations, the project has an estimated cost of $1.6 million. The collective has raised over $1.2 million to date, with construction ongoing.

For over a decade, Chief Innovation Officer Carl Wiley has worked with individuals experiencing homelessness and street-involved youth in Chicago and rural Illinois. In addition to his direct service experience, Carl has worked on larger social justice campaigns, including the racial wealth gap, and partnered with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to promote employment as a pathway out of homelessness. Carl holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, a master of social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois. In addition, Carl actively works in music recording and live performance and is inspired by supportive services focusing on music-based interventions. Wiley says he anticipates supporting over 250 young people annually.

The LYTE Collective is currently accepting volunteers and donations. People can donate funds, materials, and their time. For more on the LYTE Collective, visit their website.

Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSanders20 and @DanieSandersOfficial.

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