Julie Delezenne, coordinator of Congregational and Community Relations for The Night Ministry, shared the struggles facing the homeless youth in Chicago during an Oct. 14 presentation at Lewis University in Romeoville.
The Night Ministry began in 1976 after the Reverend Tom Behrens walked the streets of Chicago at night to discover the needs of youth. Delezenne said he realized that there were too many youth with no place to sleep at night.
Delezenne began her presentation by pointing out causes of homelessness. She discussed physical and emotional abuse, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) issues, illegal substance abuse issues and parenting as possible reasons. To support her claims, she shared poems and stories written by homeless youth themselves. Delezenne’s main message was that regardless of how a person becomes homeless, he or she is a person who deserves an opportunity to pursue dreams and achieve goals.
The Night Ministry is based out of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, but it uses a Health Outreach Bus that travels to many other Chicago neighborhoods. The bus makes regularly scheduled visits to underserved neighborhoods across Chicago six nights a week. Delezenne explained part of the mission is to establish relationships with trust, which is a main reason why the bus maintains a regular schedule. Each year, thousands of homeless individuals use the free healthcare and education offered by the staff.
Delezenne added that The Night Ministry offers three youth housing programs: an interim housing program lasting 120 days, a two year transitional living program as well as a pregnancy and parenting program. There are additional supportive services offered to homeless and at-risk youth.
Delezenne also shared success stories. One example she gave was of a female that attended the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) after two years in the transitional living program.
Additional information on The Night Ministry including information on how to volunteer may be obtained by visiting www.thenightministry.org.
The presentation was part of the Arts & Ideas program at Lewis University. It was also sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science national honor society.
A Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers nearly 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The 10th largest private, not-for-profit university in Illinois is being honored for the sixth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
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