Chicago Outreach Bus Sparks Happiness Amid Holidays

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Chicago Outreach Bus Sparks Happiness Amid Holidays
The Night Ministry's bus brings food, coffee, hygiene supplies and more to underserved communities in Chicago six nights a week.

Six nights a week, Chicago non-profit The Night Ministry brings food, coffee, hygiene supplies and more to underserved communities across Chicago. 

This time of year, there are also gifts and stockings in the mix.  

"Socks, candy, something else down in the bottom," Chicago resident, Donald Hines said of his stocking. "I could tell you this much, it's very appealing."

After loading up the 38-foot, custom-made bus, staff and volunteers drive across town and visit different neighborhoods. 

Newsy's Ben Schamisso rode along for a scheduled stop in back of the yards on the south side of Chicago. 

"Life has many challenges, but at least for this moment, we can forget about every single thing," Juan Roca, lead outreach minister, said. "At least through these interactions, through these gifts, they can have this short moment of happiness."

Because the bus has been stopping there for years, staff and clients say they feel a deep connection. 

"They're here for you," Chicago resident, Edward Roe, said. "It makes a difference, you know, the stuff, it supplements, so I feel safe with it."

The bus is equipped with a medical room. A nurse practitioner is always on staff, ready to see people for free during evening hours when many clinics are closed. 

"When my back is hurting me, the doctor can get me medication for it because I've got a bad back," Hines said. "I come here because they help me out so much."

Typically everyone gets the usual sandwich, snacks and coffee or hot chocolate, but with it this week is a special ticket to claim Christmas stockings. For those with kids, there are also wrapped-up gifts. 

"This is a low-income community," Chicago resident Yaneth Jaimes said. "It’s very good that they help people here."

The Night Ministry has been helping Chicagoans in need for more than 30 years, but the growth of homelessness during the pandemic has made their mission as important as ever.

"When people had COVID, they were going to people," Roe said. "People couldn't get out, so they were going to them, just like they do when they’re coming to the community. That makes a difference."

According to the federal government, the nation's homeless population grew for the fourth year in a row last year, with more than 580,000 people experiencing homelessness on a single night.

But even in the early days of pandemic, The Night Ministry's bus never stopped riding — bringing relief and a sense of community to hundreds across town six nights a week.