On August 3, 2006, the residents of The Night Ministry's Open Door Shelter–Lakeview packed up their belongings and made the journey, along with the shelter's staff, to a newly rehabbed facility in Chicago's West Town neighborhood.
The move came nearly 14 years after the Interim Housing Program, providing up to four months of supportive shelter to young people experiencing homelessness, had first opened in Lakeview. But things were tight at the facility on North Clark Street, where there were only two bedrooms for the program's 16 beds.
"There was just not one inch of unused space," said Carole Mills, The Night Ministry's former Senior Director of Youth Programs, who was the shelter director at the time. "It was difficult to establish a sense of privacy."
At the larger facility on North Noble Street, each resident would share a room with only one other young person, among many enhancements. But the additional space in the building also allowed The Night Ministry to expand its capacity to serve homeless youth. The top floor at West Town became home to the new STEPS Transitional Living Program.
"We knew there was a need to provide two years of additional support to focus on self-sufficiency," Allison McCann-Stevenson, The Night Ministry's Assistant Director of Long-Term Residential Services, said of the STEPS Program, which offers a more independent living situation for up to eight young adults.
The Interim Program's relocation also freed up the Lakeview building for a new 8-bed shelter program—The Night Ministry's Response-Ability Pregnant & Parenting Program, dedicated to serving pregnant and parenting young mothers and their children.
Today, West Town continues to provide safe shelter to hundreds of adolescents and young adults a year as well as the supportive services they need to build lives of greater stability.
"There's been so much transformation and growth that has happened here," said Nieal Marie Ross, Manager of Youth Supportive Services. "If the walls of West Town could talk, I think they would say they are proud of our young people and proud of our agency, too."
This article is one in a series celebrating milestones in The Night Ministry's 45-year history. Explore the links below to read other stories.