• Covenant House Illinois

An Interview with Geri Kelley, of MKB Architects

Updated: Aug 30

Geri Kelley is the principal and owner of MKB Architects, the firm that designed phases one and two of CHIL’s new campus redevelopment project including our Youth Development Drop-In Center, commercial-grade kitchen, clothing closet, administrative offices, and third-floor Interim Housing Program.


Phases one and two are complete and operational, but we are still $3,144,433 away from our total $11,500,000 goal to finish the building and renovate our second floor (phase three). Help us close the gap by making a donation today.


As CHIL starts planning for phase three of the project, Geri’s team is working collaboratively with internal engagement groups to ensure the space is tailored to meet the specific needs of all Youth who visit CHIL.




MKB Architects work primarily with nonprofit organizations specializing in trauma-based facilities – where the principles are pretty universal – with similar needs of creating a sense of safety and calming environments for both staff and residents.


Speaking of the listening session MKB conducted with CHIL youth, Geri recounts, “It was a very enlightening and great learning experience for us, a great exchange of information, everyone was very honest and not afraid to hold back. They were able to share their emotions, so it was interesting and helpful to hear from a person in that position, what was important to them for them to transition to permanent housing”


Reviewing the first two phases of the project, Geri says, “Looking back, it’s nice to see we incorporated so much of what youth wanted like natural light and open spaces; these seemingly basic elements that are essential to everyday living that most people take for granted, we made a priority for the youth”.

[Left to right] Katy, Omar and Geri Kelley of MKB Architects

CHIL & MKB Designs have started the Schematic Planning process for phase three, using the input from youth and program staff to influence second-floor designs. “Our hope for youth is that they will find a home here. A place where they will feel safe and thrive and move on to the next step in their life”.



Preliminary designs for the second floor include a fitness and yoga space, an art-therapy room, a music room and a medical clinic. “We are so excited about the opportunity to expand our programming for youth experiencing homelessness,” explains Amy Laird, CHIL’s Director of Programs “What we’ve already achieved on the first and third floors have created life-changing opportunities for young people. And that was just the beginning. Moving into the third and final phase of renovations to our amazing new space will enable us to take our programs and services to an even higher, more impactful level.


To learn more about the Campaign for Youth Potential, contact Johnpaul Higgins at jhiggins@covenanthouse.org


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