“Why are those people sleeping under the bridge, Ma?” my 5 year-old self asked my mother as we drove past the Belmont and Kennedy expressway entrance.
“Those people don’t have homes, Cris. That’s why you have to work hard in school and in life and never do drugs. So that you don’t end up living under the bridge.”
Homeless people chose to be socially and economically burdened. People who are homeless also are lazy and prefer to live on the street than maintain a steady job. Homelessness was a self-imposed circumstance. These notions were taught to me from a young age. Only when I was in high school did my perspective of the homeless change — mainly due to the Night Ministry.
Freshman year, my class’s community service project was contributing our time to the efforts towards homeless with the Night Ministry. The organization taught us about the issues surrounding homeless people including the social stigmatization, stereotypes, unemployable, immense stress, violence, that riddled the lives of over 80,000 people in Chicago. The Night Ministry showed us how these circumstances were not chosen or always preventable. Small efforts like the hygiene/health kits we prepared combined with other resources and aid from community and governmental organizations help people.
Youth housing programs, hundreds of HIV tests, thousands of health examinations, and tens of thousands meals are some of the impacts the Night Ministry has had on needing communities in Chicago. The Night Ministry has had an amazing impact on communities experiencing poverty. For students like myself, the Night Ministry has provided education on the experience and needs of homeless people, which includes homeless youth, who many not always have the means for basic hygiene or the most basic healthcare.