Nov 30, 2016

Christmas Letter

Children and babies. Christmas revolves around them. Once a baby was born in Bethlehem, but there was no room for Him. Things have changed -- or have they?

In our 2015 annual report we wrote that we had noticed horrible miscarriage and infant death rates among the homeless young women we serve on Guadalupe Street. The viable birth rate was very low. It broke our hearts – so, we made trying to change it a target.

First we raised awareness. Our clients’ love for life helps them survive on the street, but it also makes them less averse to getting pregnant. So we lovingly focused on 2015 as the year we would raise that survival rate. We gave our young women and couples a measurable objective: count the number of months their pregnancies were spent mainly on the street. The number started at zero for everyone. We helped them take action to keep that number low. They responded well.

One young lady, “Trudy,” became pregnant while homeless and started down a path we’d seen many times before: get a job, stay on the streets until the baby was born, then get an apartment with the baby’s dad. As she participated in our prayer times, Bible studies and hangouts, she began to see things differently. Trudy agreed to move back home with her mother, an act that rekindled a difficult adult relationship. She focused, however, on getting ready for the baby. Trudy got a job. She applied to programs to help her with housing. Finally, in her sixth month of pregnancy, with a "score" of only one of those months spent pregnant on the street, Trudy moved into her own apartment!

Several of our pregnant clients followed this model and got their unborn children off the streets. When their babies arrive, there will be room and love for them!

It wasn’t just the street youth having children who engaged with us. We were overjoyed to see all of our clients, not just those pregnant, engage with us to start a culture change. We impress upon the street youth we serve that to continue to live on the streets while pregnant is just too dangerous for the unborn children.

This is one story of many as we pursue our mission to know, love and serve street-dependent youth. Next year that mission will grow, and it will be a challenge, as we occupy a new building, take over the vital services that have always been provided there, and continue to adapt to a growing Austin urban landscape.

We are blessed to serve these young people. They are children in some ways, adults in others. How we treat these children says a lot about our world. Is there room for them today? Have things changed since Bethlehem? I am pleased to say that we welcome street youth with open arms. We encourage them to expect better for themselves.

New Space for Street Youth Along Guadalupe to Open in January - By KATE GROETZINGER

Missionary & Founder of Street Youth Ministry Terry Cole speaks with local area youth in the hall of the Congregational Church.
In a room at the Austin Congregational Church, Terry Cole talks with 10 young adults. They’ve come to see Cole, but also to eat. 
When  Cole was laid off of his job as an engineer in 2008, he decided to dedicate his life to rehabilitating young people living on the street around UT. By his account, homeless youth have called the West Campus neighborhood near Guadalupe Street known as "the Drag" home since at least the 1970s.
Every Tuesday, Cole holds court at the Congregational Church, where he invites young homeless people from 18 to 30 years old to come eat. His organization, Street Youth Ministry, serves homeless youth through events held in churches around UT.
According to Cole, the youth he serves have always been drawn to the neighborhood around the university for the same reason other young people are.
“Young people like to hang out with young people. That’s just a universal fact,” Cole said. “They are separating from parents and they want to hang out with each other, and the center of young people in Austin is undeniably the 40 Acres.”
Jerome Ray, a client of Street Youth Ministry, is one of these young people. He says he likes to hang out with students at the residential co-ops in the neighborhood. But, when he hits the drag, he is treated differently than the students he befriends.
“Two weeks ago I went into Medici CafĂ©,” Ray said. “And, when I walked in the guy was like, ‘Hey, you need to buy something.’ And I was like, ‘Do you talk like that to all your customers, or is it just because my pants are dirty? It’s just because my pants are dirty, huh?’”
Cole says the police also treat homeless youth differently. Ever since the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser by a young homeless person last spring, Cole says the neighborhood has been hostile toward his clients, as well as his ministry. 
Cole speaks with two clients at Congregational Church.
“Around the first of March in 2016, the West Campus neighborhood united in a very solid message that said, ‘We are getting rid of homeless young people’” he said. “It was actually prior to the murder.”
Cole says he’s seen the number of homeless youth in the neighborhood decrease by half of what it was in 2015, when it spiked due to people in the area making and using the drug K2 on the street.
“The community has demanded the presence of the police, and it has without question improved the safety on the street. Unless you’re a young homeless person looking for services, then they feel pretty unsafe right now,” Cole said.
Cole is focused on rebuilding trust between homeless youth and the West Campus community. He encouraged his clients to come up with a way to give back to the neighborhood, and they decided to “own” the alley behind AT&T and Jamba Juice on the drag.
“And by ‘own’ they mean they want to document its deplorable condition and make it better,” he said. “And they want to go to business owners and say, ‘Look, we’re doing this and we’re going to keep doing this. We’re part of your neighborhood, and we’re not all bad.’”
Street Youth Ministry will move into its first brick and mortar location at the corner of San Antonio and 23rd Street in January. The space is currently a drop-in clinic for homeless youth operated by LifeWorks, which lost funding for the space this year.
“There are seven rooms in the space, and I’m partnering with different organizations – mostly churches, but they don’t have to be – to outfit the rooms with supplies for creative self expression, like music and art, and meditation. I think it will become a destination for homeless youth in the neighborhood.”
Cole’s work with homeless youth goes beyond what he calls the “core services” provided by the LifeWorks clinic – some of which Street Youth Ministry will continue to provide when they move into the location. Cole specializes in what he calls “relationship services”, working with his clients to help them achieve stability and get off the streets permanently.
“I think it’s just really important that people realize there’s a positive outcome here,” he said. “They don’t become career homeless people, and it’s why they need special help, and it’s why we’re here.”
Ultimately, Cole hopes to change the perception of street youth around UT. He says that the majority of the youth he works with get off the street within a year and half of deciding to do so.

To read the original article please click here.

Nov 29, 2016

SYM featured on A&E's Intervention

If you wonder what we were dealing with in 2015... watch this. 

Many clients an Terry were interviewed. 

This describes what we call the Catastrophe of 2015 in our annual report.

Intervention In-Depth: Synthetic Marijuana

The DEA has called it a “poison”, the NYPD police commissioner called it “weaponized”, and until a few years ago, it was available over the counter and was the second most abused drug among high school students after pot. What is this mystery drug that has parents, law enforcement and medical experts on high alert? The drug is Spice, also known as synthetic marijuana, K2, Moon Rocks and Black Mamba. We take an unflinching look at a drug that is wreaking havoc in communities across the country.

Aired on:
Nov 22, 2016
Available Until:
Dec 31, 2035
43m 11s

Nov 15, 2016

Latest goals!

Latest goals!
Sept. 15 - Oct. 15
Jobs obtained -- Six clients secured new jobs: One client got a job at E3, another in home health, one hospitality, at Luby's, at W3 and lastly at Sfuzzies.
Jobs maintained -- Seven clients maintained their jobs through the period, even our clients who are working at three different jobs. One Client reached a goal of using his paycheck wisely to purchase necessities.
Housing -- Fourteen clients either found housing anew or maintained the housing they had during the period. Three clients are living with friends until they can find their own places, and one is at the ARCH. Two youths gave thanks for their housing.
Education -- One of our clients returned to school for his GED, and two of them continued their college work, although another one is thinking of going to the Austin Police Academy. One client enrolled at ACC, another began a metalworking class at ACC and one more is making progress with his computer class "Earn While You Learn" program.
Misc. -- Four clients -- obtained driver's licenses or other identification. Another is getting her benefits and also resolved a legal situation with pro bono help from a lawyer. One of our clients gave praise for successful brain surgery and another made her OBGYN appointment. Two have begun volunteering work in the area.


Milestones -- Four clients reached sobriety goals or remained sober.

Reconnection with God

One client continued to be "strong in God," another received prayer, one maintained his belief in Jesus, one shared a powerful testimony of his walk in Christ and last one client found a place to worship -- Wesley House.

Join us in prayers of praise for these goals!
How to pray for clients

Nov 14, 2016

Volunteer News for October

Time to prayerfully consider our blessings!
October was a very busy and productive month, thanks to our volunteers cheerful work and your prayers. Our Saturday Food Recovery Program remains one of the most popular weekly events, but our Computer Lab and Shower Time are where we need more volunteers. We have partnered with Austin Stone and Felicia Fuller to host Wash Night one of the two Tuesdays each month! And let us not forget the Halloween Party provided jointly with Lifeworks. Sorry if you missed it, but the photos are on the website. Check them out HERE.
We will be operating all of November. While we know many people head off to spend Thanksgiving with their families, we invite you to come and spend some time with ours. Prayerfully consider the things you are most thankful for, and see how you can translate that thankfulness into volunteer opportunities for our youth.

During the next 30 days, our greatest in-kind needs are shoes, hoodies, jackets and blankets
Click here for a complete list of items our clients can use.

Love and Light,
Billy Barnes
SYM Volunteer Coordinator
Click here to volunteer!

Nov 9, 2016

Ending Youth Homelessness? Is it possible?

HUD has a project under way called the 100-Day Challenge. You can read about it at here . SYM was not invited to participate at the start, and that bothered me. Shortly afterward, we were asked to help. I wasn't sure whether this was a stunt or "for real." However, we engaged to find out more about how to help our clients. At this point, it is a real project and ECHO is coming to our events frequently to give clients updates and sign up more for a housing list. I don't know whether we can hit our goal – finding housing for 50 currently homeless young people in 100 days -- but it has housed some already, and many of our clients are on the waiting list and excited.
To take a larger role, SYM reached out to ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) with the helps of our long-time partner Lifeworks. Following executive level discussions, we reached initial agreement to become part of a community program to bring permanent HUD assistance to Austin to end community homelessness among youth by 2020. I was quite hesitant, because SYM does not believe that permanent supported housing alone is the solution. ​However, the executives assured me that our voice was welcome and indeed needed if we are to try to address this issue with a wider range of tools than HUD currently supports.
We will see, but it would be wonderful to end youth homelessness in Austin. Functionally, that might mean that youth who age out of foster care would only rarely become homeless. (That would solve half the street youth homelessness.) And it would mean that once homeless young persons are identified, they are helped and housed, and they don't undergo multiple cycles of homelessness, which is now the case. Our clients usually either spend 18 months homeless or 10 years. This means that some find ways to rapidly get off the street but many others get stuck in cycles of homelessness.
Our goal in joining the group is to help Austin learn how to prevent as many youth as possible from becoming homeless, especially from foster care, and then to learn how to shorten the exit time from 18 months and prevent recurrence. It will not be easy and the needs are very different than those of other segments of the homeless population. But agreeing to talk, plan and come together is a good sign.

A Permanent Home for SYM!

There is a lot to do between now and then, but we will have a permanent facility starting Jan. 1! We have the opportunity to keeping an facility from closing. It's one that clients have been coming to for years. And it's located inside a church that has been loving West Campus for decades. This is a fantastic answer to prayer, but it means lots of planning and change! We are committed to our clients and to helping them see the changes they want in their lives. Here is a rough timeline for our new facility:
Nov 1 -- We have begun listening sessions with our clients. We want to know what things SYM currently does that they don't want to see change, and what the facility we are taking over does that they want to see change.
Nov 21 -- We'll announce a merged schedule of daily activities during the week of Thanksgiving. The new activities will begin in January.
Nov 28 -- We will start training in the facility by serving side by side with the existing staff. This will allow us to signal change and better learn how to keep this new facility running. To do this, we must hire one new person. We'll also have to modify our existing service in December in order to hold this important training period.
Dec 22 -- The old facility will close for the holidays. We will assume its operation at that point.
Jan 6 -- We'll reopen the facility as Street Youth Ministry Drop-in. We'll need daily volunteers, food volunteers, canned food donations, and a whole lot more prayer support! We intend to continue our Prayer Time, Shower Time/Computer Lab, and Clothing Closet where they are located now, although possibly with adjusted times.
This is what the church looked like many decades ago.
Even then the basement was used for recovery meetings and healing!
We have many weekend projects to accomplish in December, January and February to improve this facility. Please pray we get lots of community help to manage these improvements and changes needed to help us operate the facility more efficiently.
We also have a big fundraising challenge in front of us. Taking on this new facility requires us to raise $220,000 new dollars for the first two years. That's a huge bump in our budget. By the end of two years, we should have ongoing fundraising in place to sustain operation. Please pray that we find solid partners to help us keep this facility open for the next two years!

Anyone can donate at Just mention dropin in the purpose field and we'll apply your gift to keeping this facility open!

Sep 28, 2016

Salesforce Success Story

"We no longer have any concerns about our ability to scale IT as we grow, thanks to the Nonprofit Success Pack."- Terry Cole, Missionary and Founder, Street Youth Ministry of Austin

From Spreadsheets to Salesforce, Street Youth Ministry of Austin Transforms with the Nonprofit Success Pack

On any given night in Austin, Texas, there are over 2,300 homeless people living on the street. Since 2008, Street Youth Ministry of Austin (SYM) has been helping homeless or street-dependent youth identify their needs and connect them to local communities and partners that specialize in providing services like education, drug counseling, and medical and dental care. With between 80 and 120 young people receiving services every week—half of which are under the age of 24—SYM is a small organization with a lot to manage.

Street Youth Ministry leverages the Austin community to provide a comprehensive support network for street-dependent youth. But they found that, while their mission is to “know, love, and serve,” their technology didn’t truly enable them to “know” their donors, volunteers, and clients.

The organization was also growing, fast. “We were absolutely breaking. We had very complex formulas linking spreadsheets together and it was crashing,” explains Terry Cole, Missionary and Founder of SYM. Between donor information, donations, households, in-kind gifts, volunteer records, newsletter subscribers, and other data increasing every day, Cole says, “We weren’t sure in any given month if we were going to be able to get the job done on time.”

Then SYM adopted’s Nonprofit Success Pack and began to replace spreadsheets with this cloud solution. SYM’s view of their constituents quickly became much clearer. Now they can easily see who their donors and volunteers are, and track their past activities, donations, affiliations and other data. “We really were documenting our culture for the first time,” says Cole.

With complete visibility into their prospecting pipeline and tools for sending automated, personalized messages, SYM is managing donor relationships like never before. They’re able to launch fundraising campaigns to target any segment of their donors, then track the results with real-time analytics. “Now we always know what the right next step is with a given supporter—whether it’s time to solicit a donation, invite them to sign up to volunteer, or take some other action,” says Cole.

As a small organization with limited resources, SYM depends on volunteers to help coordinate events like Wash Nights and Cold Weather Responses. By giving volunteers the ability to sign up for shifts online, view their past and future activities, and automatically create volunteer receipts, SYM delivers a great experience for every volunteer.

More Than a Fundraising Database

SYM uses the Nonprofit Success Pack as much more than a fundraising database; they also use it to manage their programs and services. All of their client information is tracked on the platform, including services received, events attended, and more. Staff can generate reports on this data in seconds: “We can pull up a list of clients who haven’t received services in a certain period of time, for example, and follow up with them, so no one falls through the cracks.” These powerful, built-in analytics also help the organization track client outcomes and measure their impact on street-dependent youth.

Where staff used to spend hours entering data, they’re now spending more time with clients thanks to automated workflows. “We saw instant value in the first two months, then continued to see incremental value as we moved more processes onto the platform, until we reached nirvana after just five months,” Cole says.

SYM recently published its first annual report as an independent non-profit. The 360-degree view of data they were able to easily summarize about clients, in-kind donations, volunteers and donors made the report easy and compelling.

Achieving Success with an IT Team of One

If you’re impressed that SYM was able to start achieving results like this in only five months, you might be even more surprised to learn that it was all done by a one-person IT team. Using the extensive documentation and free support available in’s online community, The Power of Us Hub, Cole was able to sign up for free Salesforce licenses, install the Nonprofit Success Pack, and configure it to meet his organization’s needs. “The documentation of the product in the Power of Us Hub has been an incredible resource,” says Cole.

Today, SYM continues to expand their use of Nonprofit Success Pack, continually increasing efficiency and harnessing the power of data to tell their story. “We no longer have any concerns about our ability to scale IT as we grow, thanks to the Nonprofit Success Pack and Salesforce.” And SYM grows, so do the resources and opportunities available to the street-dependent youth that rely on the vital work of this organization.

While it is possible for an admin with IT experience to install and configure the Nonprofit Success Pack, recommends working with one of our expert partners in order to get the most out of your implementation.

Sep 21, 2016

It's never too early or late to dream

In seeking an entry-level job,
it's never too early to dream ...
Supporters say, "Why don't they just get a job?" Clients say, "I just need a job!" Indeed, getting a job is their number one way off the streets, but getting the job isn't really the issue. In our efforts to help our clients, we discovered three surprises about street youth and employment.
Surprise #1: most of our clients can get a job quickly. Austin’s economy is booming, and unemployment is low. Once clients start to apply, jobs come quickly. Take Georgia, for example. She came in this past month and said, "Shazaam! I got a job today. They hired me on the spot! I start tomorrow.” I had watched her behavior on the streets for a while, and I was skeptical things would go so quickly for her. Turns out, she was very good at navigating the interview for an entry-level job.

Surprise #2: most street youth leave new jobs soon, not because they are fired (as we had assumed), but because they quit! When we asked clients why, most told us they quit in order to avoid a social awkwardness they encounter at work. After her first week, Georgia came to us, worried. "Somebody told my boss I wasn't doing a good job,” she said. “I guess this job is about over." As we role-played her options, she said her first instinct was to tell off the “somebody,” a co-worker. She talked herself out of that. Her second idea was to plead her case with her boss, saying “I’m just a street girl doing the best I can.” We know from experience that it's almost always a bad idea to disclose your homelessness. It raises stereotypes, if not fear or suspicion. “Just ask your boss for feedback,” we suggested. “If the boss is a straight shooter, any issues will be addressed.” Georgia plans to do this now, but if experience holds, she will quit soon for another reason:

Surprise #3: We have discovered through our Job Club efforts that it's very important for clients to be looking for something they really want -- even at entry level. In our weekly Job Club, we ask, "What is your dream job? Who or what company would you work for, no matter what you had to do?" I remember a frustrated young client named Jason giving this surprising answer: "I want to work in trend-setting marketing. I want to be involved in top fashion, top trends, top anything." And he had just quit three food service jobs in a row! We helped him list entry-level jobs he knew in fashion: janitor at a mall, salesperson at a clothing store, model at an ad agency. Within a week he was selling swimwear! I ran into him not long ago and he's still there. The job is not a soul-sucking grind, he said. He’s considering community college, is no longer on the streets and pays rent monthly!

We believe such an exercise will help Georgia find an entry-level job she can hold on to! So many of our clients delight and surprise themselves by finding meaningful and productive jobs to lift themselves from the streets. It’s never easy, and us “older folks” probably couldn’t manage a job, being homeless, feeding ourself, staying clean, and all that without a home. But our clients are strong, resilient and amazing! We are so blessed to get such a front-row seat to watch them develop. Thank you for being a part of it!
The opportunities we offer street youth -- to wash clothes, eat a sandwich, get an ID, study the Bible, find a shirt that fits, provide bug repellent -- help us make inroads into their lives. Positive results often follow! Volunteers who give of their time and in-kind donations play important roles. For more information on participating with SYM, click on the link below:

Click here for volunteer opportunities

Sep 14, 2016

Latest Monthly Goals! July 15 - August 15

Each month, our clients make awesome progress that we celebrate!

We pray for our clients in four important areas: stability, sobriety, reconnecting with God, and finding a faith home.

Join us in celebrating these:
Jobs obtained -- One got a new job at El Mercado. Another at a car wash. Another at Popeye's. One at at H2O. One client no longer on the streets has a job as a janitor at UT and is the elected labor representative. Three more additional clients are working at new places. Another client no longer on the streets has a new job at Hoodz steam cleaning restaurant vent hoods. One client no longer on the streets just passed is real estate exam and is a new broker! One client no longer on the streets has a job at a concrete company. One client was hired by the Downtown Alliance. Another is is working at a restaurant on the Drag, and one got a job at Fry's Electronics. Finally, one has a new job at the UT Co-op Please join us in praying they can keep their jobs. It's not easy!

Jobs maintained -- One client is still working at Barlotta; Another is still working as a secretary at Centex. Job maintenance takes work!

Housing -- 18 clients are celebrating new housing this month! Awesome work, folks!

Education -- One client is attending GED classes, another is still in culinary school and one has started school at ACC, majoring in law enforcement. Education is such a door opener!

Family reconciliation -- One client has reunited with her birth mother, another is getting back into his daughter's life and one is returning home. Re-forming adult family relationships is hard work!

Benefits-- Three clients are celebrating government benefits, and one newly pregnant client is seeking WIC support. A little help can go a long ways!

Transportation -- Two clients are celebrating getting dependable cars. Getting reliable transportation frees one to work outside bus routes and schedules!

Misc. -- One client is pregnant and spent the full month off the streets!  Less street months means much better outcomes!


Milestones -- 12 clients are celebrating sobriety milestones this month. It's always a daily choice!

Reconnection with God 

One client wants to serve Street Youth Ministry someday. One client confessed to an ongoing sin. Another client is celebrating his new belief in Jesus. Faith is such a great resource!

Finding a Faith Home 

One client is actively looking for a church home, and another is attending a Bible study at his church. We are our clients' church-on-training-wheels, and we love it when they find their own communities to call home!