Imagine being the single mother of two toddlers, living in Uptown.
You’ve lost your job, health insurance and housing. There is no one to turn to because you don’t have any family.
Imagine being the mother of two teenagers, living on the North Shore. You are reflecting on “the price of privilege,” lamenting the notion that your kids could use a reality check.
Imagine what happens, for a brief moment in time, when two worlds collide—the mom from Uptown and the teen from the North Shore.
The Night Ministry is a social service agency that serves homeless youth, working-poor adults and the uninsured in need of medical attention. Each evening, their Health Outreach Bus visits several Chicago neighborhoods to provide food, health services, education and counseling. Twice a month I assist adults, families and teens from my church, Kenilworth Union, in preparing and serving meals to people who have fallen through the cracks.
A typical service day begins with preparing and packing the meal. The journey along Sheridan Road from Kenilworth to Uptown is an interesting exercise, the significance lost on no one. Pulling up to the curb at the corner of Wilson and Hazel seeing 200 people in line—waiting for us—is rather intimidating.
For the next hour we serve, and yet we receive much more than we give.
Abject poverty does not discriminate, and we see a montage of people and personalities. The Night Ministry staff connects people with resources to empower them to change for the better. Theirs is a ministry of presence—non-judgmental, caring and supportive. Watching them interact with people on the street is such a gift.
The experience leaves an indelible mark on all who serve—it is transformative, humbling and particularly enlightening when articulated by a 16-year-old volunteer: “I can’t believe this goes on 20 minutes away from where I live. When can we do this again?”
UPDATE: The Night Ministry’s first overnight youth shelter, The Crib, opened its doors at Lakeview Lutheran Church last summer as an overnight space for youth ages 18-24 to get a hot meal, sleep, do yoga, dance, rest and be safe. The Crib is open seven days a week, from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. The shelter can accommodate 20 people a night.
Sadly, there are only 189 other beds for youth in Chicago, while an estimated 2,000 young people experience homelessness every night. There are at least two staff members awake and on duty at all times. Staff also provide the youth with links to daytime supportive services.
Night Ministry needs donations to cover meal costs at The Crib. Youth are provided with dinner and breakfast. For $9 a day, you could sponsor a youth’s meals at The Crib. Donate via website at thenightministry.org, or by calling or emailing Shannon Sudberry at The Night Ministry, 773/506-6009, [email protected].