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Best housing case manager who takes no shit while getting shit done

In the history of human existence, there occasionally is someone who becomes so famous for excelling at what they do that they only need one name: Buddha. Beyoncé. Sylvia. 

Sylvia Hibbard is a case manager for the street medicine organization The Night Ministry. I’ve heard her name uttered with respect from what feels like pretty much every unhoused person I know on Lower Wacker and in the Loop. 

“She doesn’t coddle you,” Chris Murray, an unhoused Chicagoan who is working with Sylvia, told me. “But whatever pace you work at, she’ll follow that pace too. It sounds so simple to say she’s patient, but that work is constantly getting rejected at your job. You see this person who wants to get help. And they’re doing the first ten steps, but they can’t make the last two. What’s really cool about her is that even if it takes someone a year or longer,” she doesn’t take it personally, and she doesn’t push. Also: “she’s funnier than people know.”

flyer from chicago public library listing when social advocates are available to talk to people
Hibbard is one of several social care advocates that are available for patrons at the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library on a weekly basis. Credit: Courtesy of Sylvia Hibbard

“I’ve learned—and I’m still learning—to ask the question, ‘Hey, when is a good time during the day for you, when you feel like you’re strong enough?’” Sylvia told me. “We respect when other people have doctor’s appointments, if somebody has cancer or some other chronic health problem, we respect when they have to go for treatment at a certain time, or when they have to do something or when it’s getting them down. We don’t provide that same respect for people who are addicted to a substance, even though it is as much of a physical and mental health condition as it is chronic.”

A job application, a Homeless Status Certification letter so someone can obtain a free state ID, a ride to check out a potential apartment to find out if it’s a good fit for the unhoused person who needs it—Sylvia, 58, offers holistic support. “Somebody who is unhoused should not be defined by that. They should be defined by the whole person they are,” she told me. 

People who are experiencing homelessness can call the Night Ministry at 773-256-7549 to receive healthcare and begin the housing process. Sylvia holds office hours on the third floor of the Harold Washington Library on Mondays noon-3 PM. (Other nonprofits providing similar services are at the library other times: see graphic above)

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