By Paul W. Hamann, MA, MNA
President & CEO
The Night Ministry was formed 45 years ago when a diverse coalition of Chicago-based congregations hired the Rev. Tom Behrens to reach out to individuals struggling with homelessness, isolation, and despair during the lonely overnight hours.
Tom was a minister of the United Church of Christ. But as he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1977, with The Night Ministry, it was never his job to "preach at these people or convert them or get them to church." Rather, he was on the streets "to be present to them, to be available, to listen."
The Night Ministry has come a long way from the early days of Tom and his first colleagues offering a listening ear on the street corners and in the bars and all-night restaurants of the city's North Side. Today, our Outreach and Health Ministry Program is active across the city, bringing free health care, food, and supportive services directly to thousands of Chicago residents grappling with homelessness or poverty on an annual basis. Each year, our Youth Housing Programs provide safe, supportive shelter to hundreds of adolescents and young adults. We now offer our services to unsheltered members of the community on the city's public transit system, and, through a new collaborative program with other agencies, we are providing critical supportive services to homeless young adults who have obtained their own apartments.
But as we have grown, one thing has not changed. The foundation of human connection that Tom laid at the beginning remains today. You can see it in the nonjudgmental relationships we build with every young person and adult who turns to The Night Ministry for help, and in the compassionate support we offer to so many who have known lives of rejection and mistrust.
Explore the links below to read about some of the milestones in the history of The Night Ministry. I often say that the past is the prologue to the future. Judging from The Night Ministry's 45-year history, I say we are in for an exciting future.