"Home for the holidays" is a phrase heard often this time of year. But what does "home" mean for individuals who have experienced homelessness?
Teresa, who recently found permanent housing with the help of The Night Ministry's Street Medicine Team, said home means stability. "It's a place where I can get myself together. I can look for a job now. I can become a productive human in society again," she said.
For Keith Belton, a volunteer with The Night Ministry, home means freedom and stability. "Having housing means not being hand-cuffed," he said. "It means having a place where people can help me get situated and meet my goals."
"Home is not a place, it's a feeling," said Daniel, a former resident of The Night Ministry's Interim Housing Program, which provides short-term shelter for young adults. "It's people you love, people who are concerned about you. When you are on the streets, you're on your own. It's hard to go up to somebody and tell them what you are going through."
Love is also an important aspect of home for Amber, who also stayed at Interim. "Home to me is having a place where you can create memories with friends and family and be loved."
Relationships are a key part of Lukas's concept of home. "I've had plenty of housing, but never had a true home," said Lukas, who has stayed at The Crib, The Night Ministry's overnight shelter for young adults. "I've never had anyone to share it with."
Nakiesha experienced a sense of home when she stayed at The Crib. "I was safe there. They were my family, and I was respected."
Amber also felt like she was part of a family when she was with The Night Ministry. "I've always felt like a stranger in my home," she said. "But when I got to The Night Ministry, [Program Specialist] Miss Shen'a, who is no longer with us, took me under her wing like I was her daughter. Staff motivated me to become who I am now."
Willow said he appreciates the family-like environment the Youth Outreach Team provides alongside its van on Thursday nights in Lakeview. "How they all look out for the needs of the homeless is very inspiring, and it feels like home. They feed us, they give us clothing. A lot of the things they do are what your parents would do," he said.
Visit thenightministry.org/what-is-home to learn more about what home means to members of The Night Ministry community and to tell us what it means to you.