Nine years after it began operations in the basement of Lakeview Lutheran Church, The Night Ministry's overnight shelter for young adults has reopened in a larger, enhanced space on the first floor of The Night Ministry's new headquarters in Bucktown.
Guests of The Crib woke up at the old location for the last time Monday morning and were then welcomed at the new facility that evening. The Crib's Program Specialists and members of The Night Ministry's Youth Outreach Team, who provide case management services at the shelter, were on hand Monday night to provide tours, discuss expectations for use of the space, and help guests settle in, process the transition, and make the place feel like home.
Felicia, a guest of The Crib who made the transition from Lakeview to Bucktown, said she was impressed by the space.
"It's vibrant and friendly. It's more inviting," she said.
Isabella, a Crib guest who also came over from the old location, said she felt welcomed.
"The bathrooms are gender nonconforming, and that means a lot to me that they are making efforts to be open," she said.
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While Lakeview Lutheran Church has been a welcoming host for the shelter over the past decade, the strategic plan The Night Ministry embarked on in 2017 called for addressing facility challenges The Crib faced at the site, where sleeping, eating, and recreating all took place in the same 900-square-foot room, guests slept on mats on the floor, and washroom and shower facilities were limited.
Among many amenities, The Crib's new location features a multi-purpose room which can be used for dining, group activities, and recreation, a dorm room with beds, multiple showers and washrooms, a large kitchen outfitted to cook breakfast and dinner for more than 20 hungry young people, a laundry room with two sets of washers and dryers, and a lounge with computers.
Danitra Pope, Program Manager at The Crib, said she is excited about the improvements that come with the move.
"With the additional room, there will be opportunities for more programming, including activities provided in conjunction with partner organizations. Our guests will also have more space to utilize, so they won't feel like they are on top of each other," she said. "They'll have more privacy when they meet with their case manager or speak with one of the staff."
"I am really looking forward to our guests using the computers in the lounge so they can apply for jobs and benefits and access other resources," Pope added. "And now that we have multiple showers, every guest will have an opportunity to take one. Being able to provide that added level of normalcy and comfort is exciting, especially during the summer."
The Crib's move coincided with the end of 24/7 operations at the shelter, which began back in March when Illinois issued its now lifted stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pope said staff had been talking with the shelter's guests, along with other organizations that refer clients to The Crib, in anticipation of the move, and provided guests with directions to the new location. On the last morning of operations in Lakeview, guests who planned on coming to Bucktown received transit passes. The news of the move has also been shared on social media.
A member of The Night Ministry staff was stationed at Lakeview Lutheran Church on Monday night, with directions to the new location and transit passes, to meet any potential guests who arrived at the old location seeking services. Pope said continuing to have a staff member posted at the church at night will be reevaluated on a daily basis.
While moving is exciting, it can also be difficult. Many of The Crib's regular guests are familiar with Lakeview and utilize other services in the neighborhood. It can also take time to get used to a new routine. But Eric, who made the move from the Lakeview site to the new site, said the tradeoff is worth it.
"There's more opportunity here. It's organized and it's neat," he said. "It's also cooler, which is great because it's summer."
Although the new space is larger than the facility in Lakeview, the guest count at The Crib will remain 21, with the capacity to expand to 24 in a city-mandated weather emergency.
The relocation of The Crib Monday night completes The Night Ministry's move into its new headquarters. For more information about the move, visit www.thenightministry.org/move.