By Noah Smith
The practice of street medicine focuses on providing medical care to homeless people in the places where they are based. Street medicine is as much about treating or preventing disease as it is about building relationships and trust with patients, many of whom have been shut out of other places of medical care.
In Chicago, The Night Ministry has supported homeless people with health care, social services, food, clothing, and housing since 1976. The nonprofit acquired a mobile health clinic in 1988 and has been a leader in serving Chicago’s most vulnerable residents, whether with primary medical care or a cup of coffee on a freezing winter night. The organization is also conducting busless outreach activities at all major homeless tent camps in Chicago, where doctors and other health care providers will conduct wellness checks on those in attendance and provide care.
Through their work, The Night Ministry has been able to build relationships with the communities they serve. “This bus…is an angel bus,” said Anthony Freeman, one of Night Ministry’s customers. “Great memories are on that bus,” said Cookie, a Night Ministry client.
Last year, The Night Ministry helped 479 people find housing, including 51 children, served 4,500 homeless people and conducted more than 2,400 health assessments for people who otherwise might not have not be given the opportunity to undergo a medical examination. They also avoided 533 emergency room visits through their proactive care and served 57,770 meals. About 80,000 people in Chicago live homeless, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
“We want them to feel human, because sometimes they feel a little less than that,” said David Wywialowski, Night Ministry’s director of health outreach. “Don’t be afraid of homelessness. Notice it’s there and think about how you act,” he said.
“As a human being, you have the right to be healthy…we can teach people how to change their lives, so they can have a better life,” said Carolle Derradji, nurse practitioner at The Night. Ministry.
Direct Relief and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Olly Riley-Smith joined The Night Ministry in January as they used their mobile clinic and outreach program to provide essential services to their clients in the depths of Chicago’s winter. .
Through the Health Equity Fund and the AbbVie Foundation, Direct Relief has awarded The Night Ministry $250,000 to support its mobile outreach program, including funding to provide medical care and social services to those who sleep on city trains, in tent camps and on the streets across Chicago.