Oct 12, 2018

A day in the life of Street Youth Ministry

184+ individuals!
Did you know that’s how many people are involved with Street Youth Ministry every day? We didn’t, so we looked at our numbers and came up with an average. It's an amazing thing to behold, and we and our clients are blessed beyond hopes.
Who could have imagined such a thing ten years ago? With God's continued blessing and the help of thousands of people, we will continue to help more homeless young adults with our proven techniques and strategy. Each semester, we try new things, hone our skills and open doors wider for our clients to discover who — and whose — they are!

'If it weren't for SYM, I'd be lost!'

'If it weren't for SYM, 
I'd be lost!'

Taylor's story resembled those of so many SYM clients. After aging out of foster homes, she joined a carnival, became hooked on drugs and eventually became homeless, ultimately finding her way to SYM and hope! Last month, she mentioned us on Facebook and created a fund-raiser.
Facebook post: July 3, 2018
Title: It's a hard transition process -- Thanks for the support

"Most of you know my story. All I have to say now is that it takes a while for someone to transition from homeless to housed. I’m experiencing this now.

"I didn’t think it would be hard, I post like I’m doing great, but I’m learning how to save money, how to pay my rent, how to do everything I should already know. So if it’s taking me a while to meet up with you, or go out to lunch, I’m sorry. But this is hard for me. I’m in the transition process.

"If it weren’t for The Street Youth Ministry, Lifeworks, or LINC Austin I would be lost. Thank you all for helping me!!!" 
Why this matters ...
Changes like what Taylor is experiencing don't happen overnight. This prayer team has prayed for her more than 100 times. We are overjoyed at the changes she has been making and pray that her plans continue to grow. This is what YOU help do at SYM!

Is Reconciliation Worth It?

We are proud that we have a safe place and that we have trust, but I am most proud that we reconcile with almost everyone! -- Terry
Recalling a time when
an angry confrontation
turned to reconciliation
We sat face-to-face in an uncomfortable silence. Robert was not responding to me as he stared at his phone. We were going to have a falling out for sure.
In our Drop-in Center, safety is our number one requirement, as it creates the foundation on which we build trust. We provide many physical relief items: food, drink, clothing, toiletries, self-care aids, etc. Those are important, to be sure, but the very moment safety comes into question, nothing else matters. Many of our clients will flash back to times -- perhaps recent times -- when safety was in peril. Those moments are never good.
We don't have a lot of rules, but NO SMOKING is one of them. Vaping isn't new, and it's never been a problem, but for some reason we recently had clients who, unlike past occasional vapers, left huge clouds of smoke behind. It raised concerns among staff and other clients, so we banned vaping as we did all smoking. Unfortunately, the decision wasn't popular.
One client couldn't follow the rule, so I had to ask him to leave. A heated exchange escalated as other clients joined in, including Robert. Eventually, everyone else left, leaving Robert and me sitting face-to-face, and it was obvious he wasn’t moving or talking.
I began to reevaluate. I recognized what I believed were signs of PTSD. I backed off and waited, but I didn't disengage. Finally, Robert warned me: “I'm going to explode, and that won't be good for you." I responded with, "You can explode if you need to. I'm here and not going anywhere." After some time, he was finally able to stand up and leave the center. He didn’t say anything more, but his body language told me he was very angry.
We are in the business of reconciliation. It’s not unusual for someone to be angry with me, but when the anger lingers, it’s a hindrance to ministry. We seek reconciliation. We seek healing. We seek to be better than before.
Robert returned the next day and asked to talk. He apologized. I apologized for letting things get more personal and directed at him more than necessary. We talked about his PTSD and his coping mechanisms. The incident and its reconciliation changed him from someone who was shy and rarely shared to someone who is much more engaged.
This incident isn't unique. Holding people accountable, sharing difficult news, standing up to a bully who doesn't like your view -- none of this is popular, but it’s the stuff real relationships are made of.
While we offer relief, we are in a ministry of offering hope and long-term relationships to young adults who often have never had such relationships with reliable adults. It's not easy. Healing and restoration occur in the ebb and flow of these relationships. We are proud that we have a safe place and that we have trust, but I am most proud that we reconcile with almost everyone. Of the 5,000 people we have served in the past 10 years, only two have yet to reconcile with us – and we continue to reach out to both as often as we can.
One day we believe it will happen. And God's goodness will flow into that breach, and wonderful results will follow!

Terry Cole

Aug 22, 2018

Salesforce News - Growth is a Good Word for Small Nonprofits

Growth is a Good Word for Small Nonprofits

Grow your impact with better nonprofit technology
Some funders, constituents, and nonprofit staff think of growth as prioritizing “money over mission,” viewing it from a traditional corporate focus on just revenue growth, excessive spend, or increase in size. This definition can lead people to scrutinize nonprofit investment in marketing, talent, operations, technology, and other overhead areas that are actually necessary to support a healthy and sustainable model for change. This is also known as the “overhead myth.”

We all know nonprofits today face ever-changing needs from their constituents who are at the heart of their mission, which require agility to stay relevant. People are adopting modern technologies and spending their time in new digital spaces. Nonprofits are constantly responding to opportunities, threats, and changes, and yet they are limited in their ability to respond if they cannot grow and evolve in many different ways.
Growth might mean scaling your capacity to keep up with demand. Marketing your cause to create a social movement. Replicating your model to help another zip code. Securing that grant to cure a disease. There are a million ways to grow for good.
This is why for many nonprofit professionals, “growth” has taken on a more positive meaning, evolving past revenue into all parts of your mission. They focus on balanced growth so that strategic marketing efforts can be turned into efficient program participation, effective fundraising, and sustainable impact. All without bottlenecks, waste, or frivolous spending.
For this blog we asked a few small nonprofit professionals, “What does growth mean to you?” Here are their answers. To learn more, visit our new Growing Nonprofit webpage with content for small and developing nonprofits.

Growth in Scalable Technology (& Fundraising)

Terry Cole, Executive Director, Street Youth Ministry of Austin
“Small is wonderful. You can keep focused on goals, and keep staff well informed on that direction. But, being a smaller nonprofit is also challenging because you have high overhead and initial expense in technology, insurance, and other things. We started focused on fundraising and now have full visibility into where are income comes from, and where we should grow it next. With Salesforce’s donation of cloud-based technology, you can get start growing your capacity in one area, and move to the next when you are ready.”
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. Using the Nonprofit Success Pack they are able to launch fundraising campaigns to target any segment of their donors, then track the results with real-time analytics, all as a small organization and IT team of one.
“Growth is always painful as we grow from adhoc to procedural, small to scaled. You have to find the right people and figure out how to divide and redivide the job duties, and give them a consistent way of working. Because we invested in Salesforce, we have limited churn on tools and methods. We started with with donor management, then newsletters, then volunteers, then clients participation and impact, operations scheduling, then cases for non-client constituents. You have to start somewhere.”
With limited time, Terry still finds time to answer countless questions on the Power of Us Hub. Learn more about SYM or follow Terry’s blog Mightyforce.org.
Viewing growth as greedy or “against the grain” of nonprofit models will only hold us back from achieving our Mission’s promise. With a solid reason for where and why you should grow, and a balanced approach to sustainably increase your impact, growth is a good word. In today’s ever changing world if your organization doesn’t evolve, another more nimble organization will, or there will be missed opportunities for impact. Find your next project, plant a seed, use technology to grow effectively, and see where it takes you.

Aug 13, 2018

Kickstarting Your Addiction Recovery Journey

by: Adam Cook

Overcoming substance abuse can be difficult. Often, fighting to overcome your addiction can seem like a constant fight. When you add in the responsibility of caring for your family and performing satisfactorily at your job, it can seem almost impossible. But, it is important to know that you are not alone and countless others have walked this path before you.

Many others struggling with substance abuse have come out on the other side sober and have gone on to live successful lives. There is not an untrodden forest in front of you, but a well-cleared path. While the trees might be dark sometimes, there is a way through. By working diligently to recover and considering some of the steps we offer here, you too can recover.

Seek Support

It is hard to make any sort of a journey without the proper support team – substance abuse is no different. According to Live Science, friends and family members are the greatest resources someone recovery from addiction can use. So, use them! They can help you with nearly every tip in this guide, help you find health care professionals and simply give you a comfortable place where you can be yourself and express your setbacks without judgment. Nearly every friend and family member you have wants to help you through this tough time, but they might feel awkward asking what they can do or might just not know that the CAN do something. Reaching out will allow them to help wherever you need them to. If you’re afraid they won’t understand your disease or might need some extra information, you can provide them with a well-researched article to read, such as this one by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Start New Habits

While substance abuse is a disease, it is also a habit. Whenever you’re stressed or encounter your triggers, it can simply become a habit to reach for a substance. In fact, using drugs out of habit is commonly considered the first step to addiction. There is a fine line between addiction and habit but getting clean often involves treating both possible aspects. Becoming clean, then, also involves breaking that habit.

Breaking a habit can be done in a number of ways, but the most strategy is to develop a new habit in its place. Building a habit is far easier than completely stopping a habit. So, next time you begin to get stressed and feel temptations, reach for a healthy snack, take a run, or grab a glass of water. And then do it again. And again. Until finally you have developed a new, healthy habit that helps you deal with your stress and triggers. Healthy habits such as diet and exercise can both replace your negative habits and increase your overall health.

Avoid Temptations

On top of developing a new habit, avoiding your temptations all together will reduce the risk that your willpower will break and that you will fall back into old habits. Many recovering addicts have triggers that make them feel the temptation to abuse a substance. According to Psychology Today, a trigger is something that reminds you of the addiction.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be unpleasant and can be something as simple as hearing a song on the radio. But it can lead to an unmistakable urge to relapse. It can be extremely useful to identify these triggers so that you can avoid them. There are around 14 major triggers that commonly cause someone to relapse or begin using drugs. This list is a great place to start when it comes to discovering your triggers.

The road to addiction recovery can seem dark, scary and full of things that go bump in the night. But, it is important to realize and accept that people have recovered before. You can, too. By working closely with a support system, establishing new habits and avoiding temptations, you can set your foot more firmly on the path of addiction recovery.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Jun 27, 2018

How You Help Clients Progress--What Amazing Changes!

A special summer message from Street Youth Ministry!
Why you are receiving this
Dear Terry,
Welcome to our summer newsletter!

The purpose is to share with you what we are doing with your help to know, love and serve street-dependent young people who have come to Austin. They come from all over our region and even from other states as they travel and find their way.
We have your address as 5915 Highland Hills Dr in Austin TX 79731. We have your home and mobile phones as unknown and 5125533796. And we have you involved with these organizations: Austin Nonprofit User Group, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Salesforce Saturday, Street Youth Ministry, University of Texas. If any of these are missing or need updating, please use this link and we can start a quick and easy process to update your information securely right in your inbox.
Talents, skills awaiting discovery
SYM encourages clients to develop their skills and talents, like this young man’s freehand art.
Follow one client's
path through what we
call his 'college years'
Joel struggles today. Life is not easy for him. And we are so happy to have him around. Later this year, our ministry will be 10 years old — 15 if you count from the time Terry began volunteering with homeless young people. And we've known Joel almost the entire time.

Back in the day, Joel was a vibrant teenager. He loved to draw cartoons. He loved to draw realistic but fantastic scenes. And he loved drugs. They gave him an escape like nothing else he could find.

We served him with basic needs to keep him alive, mostly safe and healthy. These were his "freshman" days. Partying, enjoying himself, living "out loud," escaping his past.

At some point, the drugs took over. He lost all interest in art. He withdrew. He was depressed and quiet. He took care of himself the only way he knew how to. And it wasn't good for himself or others. We served him with the resources he needed to stay alive. And we constantly reminded him of his old love of art and engaged him in conversation that reminded him how smart he is. Nevertheless, he sank deeper.

These were his "sophomore" days — same old things, but tending more and more to self-destructive and harmful behaviors. Joel would rise and fall, vacillating between the modes of freshman and sophomore behavior. It would have been easy to give up on him, but we know God never does. So we kept at it, even when we were hardly welcome in Joel's life.

One day, Joel seemingly woke up. He realized he was in quite a dilemma. He was very capable, very bright, but stuck. He knew he couldn't keep going the same way. He made plans to change. To become sober. To earn money honestly. To stop hurting himself and others.

This was his "junior” year. He explored possibilities and tried on new identities. Eventually, he focused on a plan. It included recognition of God and the saving grace that comes from repentance. It included sobriety. It included a regular job. Our task was to encourage Joel to make his plan and to help him explore options to allow him to find something he believed would work.

In what we would describe as his "senior” days, Joel focused more sharply on his plan. It was not easy and he had to start over more than once. Sobriety was costly to achieve at first and difficult to maintain. Jails were involved in getting right with the law so he could work consistently. And he tried many different living arrangements. Our job was to remind him that it mattered. His goals were good and that he could achieve them.

Today, Joel is sober, participates in support groups, takes part in Bible studies and church, leads in a cooperative sober living organization, and is going to school. Joel's struggles today are with accepting that he cannot control everything. Accepting that he wants things that are not good for him still. Taking care of himself even as he allows himself to be surrounded by many who also are struggling.

Joel has a peace that is amazing. We cannot wait to see how many others he may help in the future. We have many Joels at different stages in their journey, and we respond individually, depending on their stage and need. We hear regularly from so many who are doing amazing things.

We are so grateful for what you have done for this client and all our clients! Together, we will keep it up for benefit of all. 

Terry Cole
‘It definitely is God. I’m proof of that!’
Deidox, a group of media missionaries in Austin, followed Terry with cameras and created a video of SYM, part of a series exploring “How Is God At Work?” in Austin. We posted a link on Facebook, and former clients responded quickly with answers:
“It definitely is God, I'm proof of that. Terry is the perfect person to assist that, and he communicates so effectively and comfortably with people. It's crazy seeing this video now. I definitely didn't understand or appreciate this much while I was there. It's a great feeling, though.” — Brynn

“Definitely God. The change in me OVERNIGHT (from a decade of heroin addiction to 100 percent delivered from that) can ONLY be explained by God. That just DOESN'T happen. And no one can convince me otherwise.” — Jade
Contact Info:

Phone: 523.553.3796, choose 9 to reach staff
Street Youth Ministry, 408 W. 23rd St. Basement, Austin TX

Apr 13, 2018

What does a typical day look like? - April 12

We had lunch, art group, Bible study, Peer Support Group and Movie Night.
Served about 25 people.
Lots of good discussion during lunch.
Had someone visit who was a client about 8 years ago, now doing great!
Collages and continued discussion for art group.
Prayer time seemed to focus on several who are recently unincarcerated, their gratitude and desires for their life.
Peer Support Group centered around staying sober.
Movie Night featured endless grilled cheese sandwiches and a riveting movie.
We celebrated many with jobs, one accepted into college, 3 return visitors from years ago, 1 new  client, and more.
We had a 15 year old drop by $100 donation from himself and his friends.
We had a recovered client drop by food to share.
We had one person stop by for a tour after seeing our invitation on the sidewalk.
Great volunteers. Great staff. Great day.
But not unusual at all!

Mar 30, 2018

“John 3:16 -- true story.”

I was leaving the drop-in after movie night when a 40-ish black man stopped me on a street corner. “I want that!” he said, pointing to my shirt. “You should give it to me."

The words on the shirt said simply, “John 3:16 -- true story.” I cracked a joke and resumed my walk. "No!” he insisted. “I really do want to talk to you." He explained that he knew me and what I do, knew that I change lives and wanted that.

He then dropped a familiar name, a former client who had gotten sober, come to Jesus and turned his life around. “I want what he has,” he said. Of course, I told him that it was Jesus who had changed the client’s life and is responsible for anything that I ever accomplish.

He asked me to mentor him. As a first step, I asked him to find a church to worship in regularly and a Bible study to attend regularly. I cautioned him not to fall into the "fixer trap" – to attend not as a homeless man but as just another sinner seeking to find out how better to follow Jesus.

We prayed together on that street corner, asking Jesus to encourage him and to help his wife, who he told me is entangled deeply in denial and addiction.

I’ll be praying for this man and I am keeping in my heart the fact that people are always watching and we may never know who or when the spirit effects people through our actions.

Happy Easter

A special Easter message from Street Youth Ministry!
Thank you
for making
this possible!
We were gathered for prayer time in what had been a slow day when Will walked in, bypassing the couches and heading straight to the kitchen. He didn't look up or say hello.

We prayed on, inviting clients to respond to questions like "God is what? I am grateful for what? I feel closer to God when?" It's part of how we help our spiritual — but not terribly religious — young adults begin to reconnect with God. The answers aren't always "nice," but they come from the heart -- maybe the gut. We repeat and honor each and every one without judgment.

After the young man filled his plate, he sat a lunch table, still apart from our prayer group, still avoiding eye contact. I was leading the prayer concert, so I invited Will to answer one of our questions. He didn’t respond, but he did look up. I could see something different in his eyes — perhaps he was high, perhaps he was in trouble. Without a response, I couldn't tell. I continued with those assembled, asking, "What do you want God to do next in your life?" Suddenly, Will blurted: “I want him to leave me alone!" Then he corrected himself: "No, I don't really want that..."

We've known Will for quite a while. He's one of those "difficult youth." Honestly, the sight of him coming in the door in early 2016 meant my staff had to re-deploy resources to handle him. We had to ask him to leave many times because he just couldn't behave safely. Lately, he's been doing great — reconciled with his father, held a job for a while, begun to realize he can't keep doing what he's been doing.

Will began to tell his story: "I was at Church Under the Bridge Sunday. I wanted to eat. They started preaching and singing, and I just started crying. I don't know why. I couldn't stop. I tried, but I couldn't. Some people noticed and they came over. They wanted to pray with me. I told them no. But I wanted it, I just didn't want to put my stuff out there in front of everyone. So I'm here..."

Having broken the ice, Will began to participate and share answers. He walked over and joined the group. The clients shared what they want God to do in their lives, talked about friends and family, and lifted up our neighborhood and the city of Austin in prayer.

When we finished, I asked Will if this had been good. He said “Yes.” I asked if he understood what happened to him the previous Sunday. He responded without hesitation: "It was the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is moving within me. I don't know exactly what to do, but I know that's what it is. Something is changing."

That's where we left it. Will has a difficult struggle ahead. But we continue to organize our ministry life so we can be there for him, on his best days or his worst. It's a pattern we see all the time. It takes years, but these awesome people recover their identities in God, in Christ, and in the world. It's a privilege to behold.

Thank you for making it possible!

Terry Cole
‘I don’t make
 the bad choices
 I used to!’
John John was a very difficult client in 2015 — always getting into fights, frequently high and belligerent. We had to exclude him from service several times. He was banned or excluded from service for longer periods of time at other places.

John John left home right after high school and got involved with organized trouble immediately. Now, however, he's sober, working and housed. "I have almost a whole paycheck saved,” he said recently. “That's more than I've ever saved in my life. And now when tough things happen, I don't make the bad choices I used to. I'm growing up and have learned to cope better. Thank you so much for sticking with me!"

We now are talking about John John's future and what path to learning and growth he wants to take. We are proud of John John!
A bonanza of 'swag'!
 Volunteers from the local sales staff of Salesforce.com donated "swag" left over from trade shows and events. They shipped it from California, assembled it into gift sets and delivered them to three organizations, including hundreds of backpacks and blankets to SYM!
Request manna bag instructions