Seven days a week, nearly every week, the most vulnerable individuals and families of Chicago in desperate need of health care find solace in a bus parked just down their street. The white oversized bus with “The Night Ministry” printed across the side is a bright light in the neighborhood, and inside it’s bustling with activity as health professionals quickly work to detect illness, provide consultation and ultimately save lives by improving access to care for city residents most in need.
The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of the community struggling with poverty or homelessness. The group works with anyone who visits their bus in need of health services and incorporates two branches: Youth Services and Health Outreach. The Youth Services program houses more than 490 youth, and helps build self-sufficiency by identifying and building relationships with youth on their streets.
The organization’s Health Outreach initiative serves the most medically exposed through a bus service, an innovative health care expansion tactic that caught the eye of Baxter and the Baxter International Foundation. The bus helps individuals improve and manage their own health, so that they can avoid regular emergency room visits. The service also works to connect people with a local community clinic that can further address their primary care needs, so they don’t let health conditions worsen.
As a result of the Baxter International Foundation’s grant, The Night Ministry was able to expand the breadth and depth of its services, including hiring a full-time community health manager to improve cross-team collaboration through expansion, cultivating partnerships and strategic planning, and addressing community health needs on a macro level. According to The Night Ministry, the new position has allowed an estimated 14,362 additional lives so far to be positively impacted from access to essential health care.
“We work with anyone who comes in need of our services, and the Baxter International Foundation has given us the resources to make that possible.”- Krista Kutz, Foundation and Corporate Relations Coordinator at The Night Ministry
“We wanted to fill that gap since we know the homeless population experiences a huge variety of illnesses that aren’t treatable when an individual isn’t housed,” said Krista Kutz, Foundation and Corporate Relations Coordinator at The Night Ministry. “The community health manager is able to address public health concerns efficiently, conducting community needs assessments and working with community partners in those neighborhoods.”
The aim of the community health manager is to deliver programs and public health campaigns in response to those assessments, going deeper into the areas The Night Ministry serves. For example, it was determined HIV was a critically rising ailment among the South Shore community, so The Night Ministry expanded its HIV testing program on the South Side of Chicago. Over the past year, they have tested more than 600 individuals who were at risk for HIV.
The Night Ministry is the only mobile health unit directly serving the homeless in Chicago. With the efforts of the new community manager, the health outreach program is partnering with other agencies, such as soup kitchens, to bring outreach services to a broader population and expand efforts to creating better means of care for Chicago residents.
“We work with anyone who comes in need of our services,” Krista said, “and the Baxter International Foundation has given us the resources to make that possible.”
FY2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015)
- 44,291 people reached as a result of the Health Outreach Bus services
- 1,275 basic health assessments of homeless and medically vulnerable individuals
- 609 rapid HIV tests administered for high-risk youth and adults