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!

Sep 8, 2016

Launching Two Events Fall 2016

We're launching two new events for all this month -- exciting stuff! We continue our efforts to provide clients with consistent and safe indoor opportunities.

With UT police recommending fewer homeless in the UT area, our clients are more at risk than ever of being asked to leave the area because they are young and homeless. So events intended to take place primarily indoors are really our only way to serve them.

This first event -- which we are calling "Hey, Neighbor!" --  I'm really excited about! After the catastrophic 2015 invasion of the K2 drug and the tragic near-campus murder earlier this year, the neighborhood needs lots of healing. A basic way to start that process is simply to clean up the area. And the SYM way is to encourage our clients to reach their goals by participating in it.

So -- at 3:30 p.m. each Wednesday, we'll send people out to take photos of West Campus areas that need cleaning up, and we'll post them on Facebook. Then we'll challenge clients to do the work. Those that do will get points redeemable for necessities like sleeping bags, backpacks, etc. As a project is completed, we'll send people out to take pictures and videotape each other's stories so they can explain to neighbors in the area what is being done. We'll post all this to Facebook, too.

Our goal is to get our clients interested in earning by working and improving neighborhood relations. Once we get things going, we might branch into gardening and art installation. We'll need volunteers to help set up and operate Hey Neighbor from 3:15 to 5:30 p.m.
                                                          -- -- --
The second event is a relaunch of Job Club by client request. And this time there will be stronger participation benefits. Attenders get access to a Facebook group where we post job listings early. We'll ask community members to notify us of openings. And when clients get new jobs, we'll give them three discounted daily bus passes (at 10% regular cost) followed by additional passes as they stay employed until paychecks begin to roll in. We'll consider helping Job Club members with discounted job needs (shoes, pants, etc).
We'll have to fundraise to have a kitty for this. We'll ask donors to give 10 times whatever amounts clients supply. We'll also need volunteers to help us set up, teach, role-play and clean up each week from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Our goal is getting clients to open up their imaginations in terms of career vocations and to retain the entry-level jobs they get.

Here's what our "block schedule" looks like. You can see how it fits in with other services in the neighborhood. Our events are shown in Orange. Our very close partner, Lifeworks Street Outreach, is shown in Blue. The Micah 6 Street Youth events are shown in purple. We closely collaborate with these organizations. Other help from neighbors is shown in gray.

Mascot at large!

Unconditional Love!

The Street Youth Ministry personality seen most often in the photographs we take is not the lead missionary, Terry Cole. It's Rosie, Terry's counseling dog, who seems to know exactly when to find her way into the frame before a shutter release is pushed. She provides untold comfort and companionship to clients and volunteers alike.

When Terry started the ministry, he studied a book on fundraising. There was literally a chapter in the book called "Don't Buy a Dog." It was about not intentionally increasing your cost of living when raising support. Lol!
About that time, Terry's daughter chose a dog breed that would be perfect for the household. Non-allergenic, small, non-shedding, hardy, friendly. But Terry said, "No way. Now is not the time to buy a dog!" 
Within a couple weeks, we found ourselves on a family vacation together and riding one of those little tourist trains. The ride owner had two dogs that loved to ride with passengers and one of them hopped into Terry's lap. Low and behold it was the type selected by Terry's daughter. After the ride, the whole family was musing over this "coincidence" when the ride owner came up and said, "We have puppies for sale." The whole family was shouting, "Please, please, please!" Terry kept to his mantra, "Now is not the time to buy a dog. And who buys a dog on vacation, anyway?"

A few days later on the trip, Terry called a family meeting. He shared that if the family would chip in to pay the purchase price, Terry would raise the funds for the medical bills for shots, spaying, etc. Everyone was quickly in accord and we cut short our trip to go pick up our sweet Rosie! Here she is on her ride home from Arkansas!

Jul 26, 2016

Street Youth Ministry Goes Platinum!

Street Youth Ministry goes Platinum!

GuideStar is a publicly funded organization that promotes transparency by 501(c)(3) nonprofits and rates them according to how they perform. Since we obtained our 501(c)(3) designation in 2013, Street Youth Ministry has steadily improved its rating, starting at the Bronze level, then in 2015 moving to Gold, the highest level.

This year, GuideStar introduced a higher level, Platinum, that requires nonprofits to track key statistics that help potential donors evaluate their impact. SYM achieved the designation.

Tell the world!

If you love our work then tell the world!

Dear Friend,

If you love our work then tell the world! Stories about us from people like you will help us make an even bigger impact in our community.

GreatNonprofits – the #1 source of nonprofit stories and feedback – is honoring highly regarded nonprofits with its 2016 Top-Rated List. Won’t you help us raise visibility for our work by rating us or posting a brief story of your experience with us? Your input will appear on other nonprofit sites like GuideStar, JustGive and Foundant. We need just 8 more comments between now and Oct. 31 to earn that award.

All content will be visible to potential donors and volunteers. It’s easy and takes only 3 minutes! Go here to get started! You can log in with Facebook, go as a guest or create an account.

Jun 26, 2016

SYM donors do all of this -- and more!

Your funds do all of this -- and more!

As we pass mid-2016, we believe we are in a strong position to continue helping street-dependent youth in Austin find more stability, sobriety, re-connection with God and a faith home. We do that by working with the West Campus neighborhood, churches, partners and volunteers, with whom we are so richly blessed.

These recent quotes will let you know whether it works or not:

A man who was addicted to meth and homeless just a year ago sent me a text. He attended a wide variety of our events, and now we keep in touch mainly by electronic means: "Terry, everything's going okay. I'm truly following Christ. Every step I have taken has been revealed. I see when I turn to wants it becomes a struggle, but when I keep my focus on Christ nothing is a struggle."

Or a note from someone served only briefly in November and December 2013 who wrote to say: "You probably won't remember me. I hung around for a little while in 2012-2013. I remember speaking to you multiple times ... . I don't know how many success stories you hear, but I just wanted to let you know that I haven't done dope in 2 1/2 years, and I just bought my own house in a suburb of Kansas City. I've been in and around churches for most of my life, and the single greatest gift I have been given was a hot meal, a fresh pair of socks, and a safe place to sleep for a few hours. Unlike a lot of places, at my worst you guys never turned me away. Christmas was the best taco dinner I've ever had. So thanks. Anyway, if you don't remember me that doesn't hurt my feelings. I remember you and the rest of the staff and how much the simple things y'all did for me helped. It made me feel like an actual person."

Or a comment from a client still on the street at today's Cookin' It Up event: "I've been sober only three days now, but one day I'm going to help people like you do. I'm going to stay sober because I have a baby on the way in November. This Christmas is going to be special. I'll have a new son or daughter. I'm really grateful there are people like you and your team."

SYM donors do all of this and more. If we could color what their funds do with a bright green SYM dye, you could see swatches of color painted all over Austin, Texas, and even across the country from the eight years we have been in "business" and into the next decade as former clients influence others with what they have learned and received at SYM. Again... thank you!

Jun 23, 2016

“2015 K2 catastrophe” Recovery and Redemption: how we’ve moved forward with the help of God.

Redeemed from the scourge of K2

From the Catastrophe of 2015
came strength, and new life
If you've followed us for a bit, you know that 2015 was a difficult year. A drug commonly called K2 invaded the Drag and caused havoc, so much so that I call that period “the 2015 K2 Catastrophe.”
The drug was cheap and easy to obtain. When it was made illegal in September 2015, it moved from convenience stores to being sold by groups of violent locals, and the consequences were plain to see: 15 to 20 bodies strewn around the Drag at any moment, as users passed out from smoking toxic levels of K2. Five or six ambulance calls a day, as users had seizures caused by the drug's pervasive and dangerous impurities. Several police calls a day, as users came down -- often violently -- from the drug’s effects. Countless counseling sessions daily to get them to realize how all of this was destroying the street community they loved so much. Many days, all seemed hopeless. Yet the storm passed. Now we encounter clients who survived the Catastrophe.
Jackson was one. After lots of encouraging mini-counseling sessions on the street, he made the decision to sober up, got a job at a Subway shop and went to work every day, even though he and his wife slept nightly on the streets. He found ways to shower, stay clean and get to work on time. Eventually, he saved enough to afford an apartment, and he found people willing to help him with deposits and startup costs. And this: Throughout the Catastrophe, Jackson's faith grew. Today, he is a God-fearing, Jesus-loving man who sees God working all around him. From the Catastrophe came great strength!
Amy was another. She enjoyed the freedom of street life and resisted our encouragement to consider longer-term goals. But pregnant and addicted, she sought help at a local rehab program. She then managed something I've never seen a street youth do – she convinced them to offer her housing in a sober facility until her baby arrived. She is now sober, housed, a fantastic mom, and get this: She has enrolled in a child care program with the Texas Workforce Commission. She is currently seeking a job. She attends worship with her sponsor every week. "I'm a Pentecostal,” she told me, “but I go with my Lutheran friend and we somehow make it work." Amy is grateful for all the help God has sent her way. From the storm came new life!
We are grateful that the K2 Catastrophe of 2015 has passed. We are glad that the street community now sees K2 for what it is -- a community-destroying drug. Yes, some people are still addicted, and we work to help them, but the scales have fallen from their eyes. Yes, the community is damaged still, but we work to help it heal and see more lives restored.
During the Catastrophe, the West Campus neighborhood reached its limit of tolerance and compassion. We are also working to help local property owners, businesses, students and UT parents to trust again. Healing for all will be a long road, but we are delighted to see many beginning the process. We know God will lead many others down the road of healing and restoration. Thank you so much for your continued faith, prayers, and trust in this important work.

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:

Jun 1, 2016

SYM Statistical Highlights

SYM's goals for clients are to achieve more stability, sobriety, re-connection with God, and finding a faith home. We break those goals down into dozens of common issues. We watch, listen and probe for when our clients are working on goals. We come alongside them as guides when we can. And we routinely follow-up on how progress is going and celebrate with them as they achieve. It's really an privilege to walk alongside our clients!