LYTE Collective provides Chicago youth in situations of poverty and homelessness with safe space, critical resources and holistic support. We invest in the extraordinary gifts, and power of young people and work to ensure that all youth have the safety, opportunities and justice they deserve.




The LYTE Collective is an organization that is defined by an expressed commitment to social justice and to the freedom for young people in high-risk situations such as poverty and homelessness to live their truth and have the support they deserve to discover their own unique and remarkable place in this world. It is an intentional act of resistance against the status quo of the current delivery of social services that too often ignores the voices and needs of young people in order to cater to bureaucratic demands; and even worse, we believe, frequently plays a role in the continued oppression of the very youth we seek to support.

As an organization, we will do it differently and hope that, in turn, others will, too.

Doing it differently means… we are committed to providing services that reduce barriers commonly found in today’s social service system. We have found through our research and decades of practice in the field that strict eligibility criteria and documentation requirements are harmful for young people. It frequently forces them to unnecessarily work around current life circumstances, sever important relationships, terminate services before they are ready, strategize to adjust their realities so that they can “fit” into programs and receive the critical support they need, and worse, avoid seeking services altogether because they can not “prove” they are in need. At the LYTE Collective we will instead provide programs that “fit” young people. We will develop enduring relationships where youth are proud to be a part of a community; a community they can return to for years to come.

Doing it differently means… that at the LYTE Collective we will use language that is affirming of a young person’s humanity and that builds esteem, respect and community for all. Youth have shared with us that common terms used in social services (e.g., client, case management, intake) frequently feel alienating and otherizing. We believe youth are not cases to be managed; they are our family, our neighbors and our friends, who we seek to be in relationship with and accompany as they move through challenges in their lives. They are our true partners in guiding all levels of the work at the LYTE.

Doing it differently means…we will intentionally collaborate with other like-minded organizations who share our values in order to build a strong web of support for youth across the city. The LYTE believes that in this time of scarce resources that we are infinitely stronger together and we will depend on our community partners to help us do better by young people.

Doing it differently means… that we understand the structural inequities and resulting oppression that maintain systems of poverty. We recognize that the direct services we provide at the LYTE Lounge will never be enough to truly end poverty and homelessness for young people if we do not also simultaneously work toward larger social change.


At the LYTE, we believe part of our ethical commitment to the young people we partner with is to incorporate best-practice knowledge generated from experience and research. The explicit adoption of evidence-guided services is an essential part of ensuring that youth are receiving the most effective support possible. The LYTE Collective’s founders have over 70 years of experience as former participants and directors of street and community outreach programs, youth drop-in centers, emergency, transitional and permanent housing, host home programs and LGBT-specific housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness.

In addition to our experience, in 2014 one of the LYTE Collective’s founders completed the first ever study in the United States of the long-term impact of the services provided by transitional living programs for youth in situations of homelessness. This study gives voice to the expertise of young people and brings forth their critical knowledge of what kind of support they need when in situations of poverty and homelessness. The findings of this study along with the adoption of evidence-guided (positive youth development, harm reduction) and trauma-informed practice models combined with the professional and lived experience of the founders directly inform all services provided at the LYTE. Further, the LYTE Collective is privileged to have a wildly talented, passionate and committed board of directors who bring the expertise required for all areas of the organization’s operations.