The Night Ministry – “Outreach and Health Ministry – Community Health Program Coordinator.”: 2002 – 2003

Barbara Sexton, Nurse Practitioner, serving as The Night Ministry’s Community Health Program Coordinator, thanks in part to a grant made by Washington Square Health Foundation, makes ready the supplies for the evening’s health outreach rounds.

The Night Ministry is “an organization created out of diverse religious traditions, [that] build[s] relationships with persons of the nighttime streets that empower them to meet their own needs. Recognizing the uniqueness, dignity and value of each person, we accept individuals as they are, in an affirming and compassionate manner.”

The Night Ministry’s Health Outreach Bus serves nine of Chicago’s neighborhoods, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Lakeview, Near North, North Center, South Shore, Uptown West Town, and West Woodlawn. Their Neighborhood Outreach Professionals work with the bus and alone on the street in four of those neighborhoods – Lake View, South Shore, West Town, and West Woodlawn. They serve homeless and precariously housed youth and adults, working poor people who are under- or un-insured, people struggling with alcohol, substance abuse and/or mental health problems, young and adult women and men who exchange sex for money, drugs, or survival needs, and recent immigrants. Their clients come from a variety of racial, cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Many of those served do not trust traditional health care or social service providers, or they lack access because these services are not available in their neighborhoods, are not open at hours when they can visit, or because they cannot pay, speak English, or show immigration documents.

The Outreach Bus, a 33-foot vehicle with a medical examining room, delivers outreach, engagement, and health services six nights a week, from 7pm – 1am. There are three routes, each repeated twice a week, in order to demonstrate consistency and dependability to populations who find it difficult to trust service providers, as well as help patients learn to manage chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. The nurses and Outreach Professionals provide HIV/STD prevention counseling and testing.

The Night Ministry has an ongoing relationship with Washington Square Health Foundation. A physician training program to move nurses towards advanced-practice status began with a Washington Square Health Foundation Grant in 1996. The Grant established relationships with The Night Ministry and area Nursing Schools utilizing The Night Ministry as part of the Nursing curriculum, while training The Night Ministry Staff, as well. The continuing education of staff allows them to provide more thorough health care services to the population they serve. This year, with a grant from Washington Square Health Foundation The Night Ministry has added a Nurse Practitioner to serve as Community Health Program Coordinator (pictured above), to conduct a needs assessment on the client population and the health outreach program. She is focusing her efforts on building linkages with community health service providers and public health agencies as well, in an effort to make The Night Ministry’s work more effective in the neighborhoods in which they serve.