The Night Ministry's Outreach and Health Ministry (OHM) Program provides services to adults and youth who are homeless, precariously-housed, low-income and medically vulnerable, focusing in areas of Chicago which have high concentrations of poverty and limited available health care services. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago was home to over 125,000 people experiencing homelessness in 2015. Homeless individuals are vulnerable to illness, severe weather, injury, robbery, and abuse. They have a high prevalence of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and asthma, along with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues that complicate their condition. Furthermore, the vast majority of homeless individuals have little or no access to safe health care. The Night Ministry is instrumental in helping this difficult-to-reach population by bringing services directly to the client at times of day when most programs in Chicago are closed.
The OHM Program brings basic health care services to homeless individuals throughout Chicago via a custom-designed 38-foot Health Outreach Bus seven days per week. The Bus operates five nights per week in under-served neighborhoods of Chicago including Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Uptown, Back of the Yards, and South Shore. Nurse Practitioners provide medical and support services to all individuals who are seeking care in the form of disease testing, prevention education, wound and injury treatment, and referrals to primary care sources. Outreach Professionals provide counseling and HIV testing. Case Managers provide support and referrals to achieve housing and health stability. Volunteers from local churches, synagogues, companies and community groups provide meals, beverages (hot chocolate, coffee and lemonade), and hygiene items to our clients. All services are offered entirely free of charge.
The OHM Program expanded its reach and broadened its staff in 2015. The program now operates seven days a week and has added daytime hours on Friday and Saturday to deliver health services in partnership with soup kitchens and program like the Chicago HELP Initiative, Matthew House, New Life Shelter, the City of Chicago's Main Community Service Center (10 S. Kedzie), Teen Living Programs, and the Marquard Center. An expanded staff now includes a Spanish-speaking Medical Interpreter in Pilsen and a Case Manager at all stops. In addition, the Community Health Manager now conducts needs assessments and tailored public health campaigns in the neighborhoods served by the Bus depending on each group's social determinants of health.
In FY 16, the OHM Program made 50,308 contacts with an estimated 4,450 adults and youth. The following services were provided:
- Volunteers and staff served 80,400 meals.
- Staff nurses conducted 776 health assessments.
- 41% of those assessed reported they would have otherwise gone to the ER for their health care or not accessed care at all, both of which are costly options to society.
- 40 individuals were treated for chronic conditions on the South Side of Chicago where there is a lack of health care services in general, especially for the homeless.
- 76 individuals were tested for Hepatitis C and given education and referrals to care as necessary.
- 575 youth and adults received HIV testing, counseling, and referral with 9 positive results.