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Celebrating 45 Years: The Night Ministry Pioneers Mobile Health Care on Chicago's Streets

bus-story-min The Rev. Peter Brick (left) speaks with a client outside the Health Outreach Program’s first vehicle, a converted RV.

For the first fourteen years of the agency's history, The Night Ministry staff conducted outreach on their feet, supporting the community members they encountered while walking the nighttime streets of Chicago. Realizing that many of those individuals had unaddressed health challenges, in 1990 The Night Ministry added a mobile health care component to the equation via a recreational vehicle.

"We thought we could develop relationships with people by having them come on board while also providing food and health care," explained the Rev. Peter Brick, who developed The Night Ministry's Outreach and Health Ministry Program.

Initially, the RV was out four evenings a week on Chicago's North Side. By the mid-1990s, the program was operating six nights a week and had branched out to other areas of the city. Today, The Night Ministry's custom-built Health Outreach Bus regularly visits six neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

As individuals experiencing homelessness are at greater risk of HIV infection, HIV education and prevention were important aspects of the program early on. A decade after the program began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approached The Night Ministry about providing HIV testing at the Health Outreach Bus. Two years later, it asked The Night Ministry to pilot a rapid test.

"We went from having a test that would take two weeks to get a result to a test that produced a result in 20 minutes," said David Wywialowski, Director of Outreach and Health Ministry. "When serving a population that moves around often, being able to tell someone their status at the end of an HIV counseling session was a game changer."

Other advancements over the years included the introduction of electronic medical records and the hiring of a full-time Case Manager to help clients with housing, employment, and other non-medical needs. But for Barb Sexton, who served as a Nurse Practitioner on the Bus for more than two decades, what remained constant was the emphasis on nurturing compassionate connections with clients.

"When I go into your neighborhood, I'm on your turf. I'm the guest," she said. "And returning to your neighborhood gives me time to build a relationship with you."

This article is one in a series celebrating milestones in The Night Ministry's 45-year history. Explore the links below to read other stories.


Celebrating 45 Years: The Foundations of The Night Ministry - EasyBlog

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Celebrating 45 Years: The Night Ministry Opens Its First Youth Shelter in a Time of Dire Need - EasyBlog

By the close of the 1980s, Chicago's population of unsheltered young people had reached an estimated 10,000 individuals per year. State law prohibited nonprofits from operating group shelters for them, leaving youth experiencing homelessness with few

Celebrating 45 Years: West Town Facility Enhances and Expands Services for Homeless Youth - EasyBlog

On August 3, 2006, the residents of The Night Ministry's Open Door Shelter–Lakeview packed up their belongings and made the journey, along with the shelter's staff, to a newly rehabbed facility in Chicago's West Town neighborhood. The move came nearl

Celebrating 45 Years: The Crib Turns Homeless Advocates' Vision into Reality - EasyBlog

The Crib, The Night Ministry's overnight shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness, owes much to a group of young change makers called Homeless Experts Living Life's Obstacles (H.E.L.L.O.). For years, H.E.L.L.O. members would meet weekly to

Celebrating 45 Years: The Night Ministry Launches Chicago's First Street Medicine Program - EasyBlog

By 2015, The Night Ministry's Health Outreach Bus had been on the road for 25 years, providing free health care to Chicagoans experiencing poverty or homelessness, but the agency sensed it could be making a wider impact on the streets. There was thi
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The Night Ministry is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Our Federal Tax ID (EIN) is 36-3145764.