Lyte Lounge community center in Greater Grand Crossing plans to open next summer

By Marissa Perlman

CHICAGO (CBS) – It is a one-of-a-kind community center for homeless youth.

The Lyte Collective was built inside a nearly 100-year-old church on Chicago’s South Side and now hopes to help young people navigate the sequel.

CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman shares how they plan to change the neighborhood

This is not your traditional homeless outreach program. Room A – there is a recording studio inside but this is where this band hopes to reach young people where they are.

In Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, you’ll find this: a nearly 100-year-old formerly vacant church that’s undergone a makeover.

He has been transformed. The 11,000 square foot space is officially the Lyte Lounge – a center for young people struggling with homelessness or poverty.

“We built our dream.”

Youth advocate Tanka Bradford knows firsthand how difficult it is for young people to get help.

Just four years ago she was homeless and getting help through social services was not easy.

“When I was in the shelter that I was in, I saw so much and I was like it could be better,” Bradford said.

Since 2015, the small team at Lyte Collective has worked from their cars – strictly mobile services meeting people where they are.

“We would go to McDonald’s or a school or a park and if someone said we needed diapers, we would meet at a coffee shop,” Bradford said.

They knew they needed a home base to offer support and in 2017 they found the church – the $1.8 million facility is almost entirely privately funded, including a huge donation from a Chicago area couple who saw this vision.

“There is so much history in the building that it was good.”

Lyte Lounge manager Izzy Vargas hopes the lounge will provide crucial access to those who have nothing and create change in this neighborhood. The collective serves about 200 people a year.

“If someone is struggling with homelessness and they can’t find a bed that day, can they come to a place where they can eat, shower and connect with someone to come up with a plan?” he said.

Outside of support services, Lyte has a medical clinic, an open kitchen, a basketball court – even a space for art and a music studio.

“Spaces like this don’t exist,” Vargas said.

So far and everyone is welcome.

Perlman: So, do you show?

Vargas: Show up and we’ll be there.

The collective works with young homeless people between the ages of 16 and 30, but no one is turned away.

The collective is awaiting a certificate of occupancy and hopes to open this summer.

Jill E. Washington