It is with deep sadness that we inform you that Barbara (Barb) Bolsen, The Night Ministry's former Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement, passed away on Wednesday, August 16.
Barb joined The Night Ministry in 1997 after leaving a 20-year career in journalism and graduating from Chicago Theological Seminary. Barb once told us that she arrived at The Night Ministry to do work that would engage her heart, as well as her head.
Barb was one of The Night Ministry's earliest Youth Outreach Workers—the Youth Outreach Team office inside The Crib is named in her honor—and helped launch weekly street outreach events for young people in Lakeview. Often dressed in a clergy collar, Barb was a fixture on the nighttime streets and quickly became a trusted advocate for unhoused young people, many of whom identified as LGBTQ+.
During her 23-year career at The Night Ministry, in each of her roles, Barb stood with the communities she served, moving elected officials and leaders to address challenges The Night Ministry's participants faced. As a leader within Lakeview Action Coalition (now ONE Northside), Barb worked on issue campaigns to end hate crimes in Lakeview, investigate police misconduct against young gay and transgender youth and youth of color, and preserve Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings as affordable housing opportunities.
Barb played a major role in innovation and expansion at The Night Ministry, notably the development of The Crib overnight emergency shelter for young adults and the relocation of The Night Ministry's administrative headquarters and The Crib to 1735 N. Ashland.
When Barb retired in 2020, she said, "I think the program that in some ways became really close to my heart was The Crib, and possibly that's because I started as a youth outreach worker and I remained specially connected to that part of The Night Ministry. Being in the position to help develop the new space for The Crib was sort of like coming full circle. It makes me really happy."
Barb's legacy is richly woven into the programs and the culture of The Night Ministry. Her pursuit of social justice survives through scores of colleagues who served alongside her and young leaders she mentored at The Night Ministry, our partner organizations, and in congregations across Chicago.
Please join us in remembering and celebrating Barb's impact on The Night Ministry and those whom we serve.