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Annual Health Outreach Bus Survey Uncovers a Deeper Picture of Those Served

Survey-Small Staff from The Night Ministry's Learning and Impact and Outreach and Health Ministry departments interview clients at the Roseland stop on Chicago's South Side for this year's Health Outreach Bus survey.

On a warm Monday afternoon, The Night Ministry's Health Outreach Bus pulled up to a corner in the Roseland neighborhood, just as it does twice a week. But this day was a bit different. In addition to Bus staff providing their usual meals and supportive services to community members who were unhoused or experiencing poverty, team members from the agency's Learning and Impact Department were on hand to gather feedback from Bus visitors

Learning and Impact gathers and analyzes data about The Night Ministry's services, and an annual survey it conducts of Bus clients is an important part of the department's work.

"The survey tells us if we're offering the right services and if the Bus is visiting the right locations. It gives us a deeper sense of what our clients' living situations are, what their employment needs are, and what their income situations are," explained Learning and Impact Director Damian Nelson.

The department visited each of the Bus's five stops over the course of the survey: Pilsen, New City, Humboldt Park, Roseland, and South Shore.

On that day in Roseland, a steady stream of people gathered by the stop despite the hot sun for food, conversation, and assistance. Most agreed to participate in the brief survey. Those who completed it were then given a gift card to a nearby restaurant.

But that was not why client Mitchell decided to participate. When asked why he had agreed to be surveyed, he shared that he wanted to express his gratitude for the ways The Night Ministry has helped him.

"Besides providing a meal when I can't afford to buy my own, the case manager helped me sign up for housing," he said. "I didn't know how to do it, so I'm grateful that she helped me to do it and she put me on the waiting list for homes."

As staff wrapped up their services after an afternoon at Roseland, they then prepared to journey to their next stop, South Shore, with Learning and Impact along for the ride.

On arrival, the Bus parked in a cool, breezy spot across from one of South Shore's historic churches. An initial burst of visitors kept the Bus team, its volunteers, and Learning and Impact busy providing services and conducting interviews.

South Shore has long been a Bus stop, and the communal spirit there was palpable. Interviewers and guests enjoyed the comfortable scenery, and many guests opted to take their surveys in the grass under the shade of nearby trees. Several lingered to chat with staff as the sun slowly set, before The Night Ministry teams made their way home.

The data gathered at stops like Roseland and South Shore helps The Night Ministry make major decisions that positively affect the agency and its clients.

"In previous years, we've changed locations or what services we offer at different sites because of what we learned from the survey," said Nelson. "Most importantly, it gives us a better understanding of who our clients are and how we can better serve them." 

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