The Crib, The Night Ministry's overnight shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness, owes much to a group of young change makers called Homeless Experts Living Life's Obstacles (H.E.L.L.O.).
For years, H.E.L.L.O. members would meet weekly to discuss their experiences and insights as young Chicagoans struggling with homelessness. Their big break came in 2009 during a City of Chicago budget hearing, attended by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, at which the group offered proposals to address youth homelessness in the city.
Their compelling presentation spurred the mayor to form the City of Chicago Task Force on Homeless Youth. The goals of the task force, which included H.E.L.L.O., The Night Ministry, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Lakeview Action Coalition, were based upon the young members' advocacy agenda.
"They wanted a shelter for young people that didn't end when they turned 21. At the time, no youth shelters were addressing that need," said Tedd Peso, Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Former H.E.L.L.O. member Conrad Burnett shared why an increased age limit mattered: "Most adult shelters don't feel safe. For youth of different sexual orientations, a lot of the adult shelters are not tolerant."
H.E.L.L.O. also proposed establishing a shelter with few barriers to entry, such as not requiring identification. Their ideas would help form the concept for The Crib.
In January 2011, vision became reality as the shelter doors opened to the first residents. The site, located in the basement of Lake View Lutheran Church, provided a safe place to sleep to a total of 138 young individuals over the course of an initial 4-month pilot period. The program became year-round in 2013.
In July 2020, the shelter moved to the current location at 1735 North Ashland, where residents now enjoy upgrades such as a separate sleeping room, multiple shower rooms, and a computer room.
LaShaunda Battie, Manager of Youth Engagement Services, said, "Moving to the bigger space has been beneficial in terms of programming, having access to more rooms, having quiet spaces, and having a whole separate section for case management."
This article is one in a series celebrating milestones in The Night Ministry's 45-year history. Explore the links below to read more stories.