Lead Outreach Minister Juan Roca's passion for his work is palpable. He joined The Night Ministry in the fall of 2019, and since then has become an invaluable part of the agency's Outreach and Health Ministry Program.
Roca works on the Health Outreach Bus, a custom-built vehicle that visits neighborhoods across Chicago with high concentrations of poverty and homelessness. Bus staff offer community members food, health care, connections to supportive services—and Roca's forte, human connection.
We sat down with him recently to learn more about him and his role.
What are your main responsibilities at The Night Ministry?
I make sure that everything goes smoothly on the Bus and that it's equipped with things that we need for the night—food, water, hygiene kits—and that everything is safe for staff and volunteers.
I'm also the supervisor of the Outreach Ministers on the Bus. We try to build relationships with the communities we serve. We help people who are experiencing homelessness, who are sick, or abandoned—we are here for them.
Before you joined the agency, what sort of work did you do?
I was the Director of Religious Education at my church, where I managed almost 400 students and nearly 100 teaching volunteers. I also worked for some time as a substance use counselor. That background helps me handle interactions with our clients who use drugs and alcohol.
What drew you to The Night Ministry?
During one class with the high schoolers at my church, we were looking for ways to help people who were in need and found a video of The Night Ministry doing outreach—giving out coffee, hygiene kits, and taking care of people who were wounded.
It impacted me and the kids a lot. My role at the church was mainly office work, but I wanted to do more than that. I thought, The Night Ministry's work is marvelous—visiting people who are living under bridges, parks, and doing that work in wintertime too.
That was what sparked my interest. I applied one day and ended up here.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The job is hard, but when our clients tell us, "Hey, you are doing a good job," that gives us courage and helps us to keep going. We depend on each other.
And my coworkers, too. We are a great team. I laugh a lot with them. We protect each other at every stop. We take care of each other. That's the thing I like the most.