Our History


March 30, 1976
- Founding

Ignite is founded under the name “Transitional Living Process”. Michael Plecki is named Executive Director, and the agency hires its first residential counselor, serving wards of the state.

1979 - Getting Started

Ignite hires its first masters-level social worker and becomes officially licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

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1981 - Transitional Living Programs

Ignite changes its name to “Transitional Living Programs” and begins offering emergency shelter, crisis intervention, and educational classes in areas such as job interviewing, assertiveness, and family counseling.

1983 - Street and Community Outreach

Ignite begins its Street and Community Outreach Program. In partnership with Traveler’s Aid, the first outreach site is the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Chicago.


- Teen Living Programs

The agency changes its name from “Transitional Living Programs” to “Teen Living Programs”.



Expansion and Belfort House

Ignite grows its programming further, offering services for substance abuse and prevention and opening Belfort House in 1994. Belfort is the first runaway and homeless youth residential program in the South Side of Chicago.

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By 1999, over 10,000 youth have been given assistance critical to their survival. Two agency health care clinics are opened, and Ignite becomes the only agency in Chicago exclusively dedicated to serving youth experiencing homelessness.



The Clustered-and-Scattered Site Apartment (CaSSA) Program opens, with 10 apartments for graduates of Ignite’s Belfort House Program.

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2005-2008 - National Recognition
and Belfort House Rebuild

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls Belfort House a “national model” for programs working with youth experiencing homelessness. By 2008, work is finished on the new Belfort House at 3745 S Indiana, designed to better fit the needs of youth and staff and accommodate new programming.

- Drop-In Center

Ignite’s Drop-In Center, now Drop-In Resource Center, opens, serving youth on the South Side. Offerings include services and workshops such as housing placement, health care, child care, and life skills programming.

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2019 - Ignite

“Teen Living Programs” becomes Ignite. This change makes clear our commitment to sparking opportunity for youth on their journey to building a stronger future for themselves, and in turn, a stronger future for Chicago.

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