In the mid-1980s, The Night Ministry met a homeless 16 year old girl originally
from Atlanta. She had run away from an abusive home situation. She was living
in an abandoned building. At one point, she was beaten up and went to a hospital
for treatment. She was turned away because she would not give information about
her parents. Because her injuries were not life threatening, she went without
medical care. This encounter prompted us to think specifically about the importance
of health care.
Our encounters with people on Chicago’s nighttime streets showed us
that there was a need for accessible health care. Many of those we were serving
through street outreach lacked access or were afraid to access traditional
health care services. It is difficult for a person to learn to make healthier
choices if they are battling ill health along with the other difficulties in
A few of our staff attended a street outreach conference in Toronto, where
we learned about mobile health facilities. We became convinced that we should
offer some kind of healthcare since so many of the people we were serving through
street outreach lacked access or were afraid to access traditional health care.
In 1989, we began our Health Outreach Program with a converted 27-foot RV.
We replaced the bedroom with a health exam room. Three people took the program
to three neighborhoods, four nights a week.
In 2005, we purchased a new, customized 38-foot Health Outreach Bus to replace our old one.
We continued to grow our Outreach & Health Ministry.
We have increased
staff and volunteers, so we are better able to serve those who visit our bus.
We continually work to improve and enhance our operations and equipment. Continual staff
training is a priority. Collaborations with other agencies and the City of
Chicago have greatly improved our ability to reach clients and potential clients.
Word of mouth is still the number one way that youth and adults find out about
our Health Outreach Program.