Apr 22, 2019

Fun at SYM

Game night fun!
Since it was started two years ago, Game Night has been a big hit with clients and volunteers alike.
Breakfast taco troupe
Volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church thoroughly enjoy themselves as they make food for our freezer.

Apr 21, 2019

UT students buy into SYM theory

   An organization of UT students called Friends of Street Youth held a panel discussion last fall to brainstorm ways to help. They included on that panel a recovered SYM client and representatives from other organizations that help street youth.
    The event attracted about 40 students and included a question-and-answer session that lasted two hours, as they sought a deeper understanding and compassion for homeless young adults. The resounding conclusion? Street youth are like college students in many ways, but they have far fewer support resources.
    Newly inspired, the students turned their attention to ways they could help. One project was a clothing drive they held this spring. They put collection boxes in dorms, and more than 100 students donated 355 items with a thrift store value over $1,300. There were tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, shoes, hats, purses, belts – even a bra.
    We value these and other tangible items like food and toiletries because street youth often come to us first seeking necessities. If we can meet immediate needs, we can encourage follow-up visits, which enable us to begin to build trust and eventually change lives.
    The students’ second project was to form a pen pal club to serve those few clients who become incarcerated. I hesitate to mention this in a newsletter, because so few clients are incarcerated for long. It does happen, though, and the students recognized the value of clients corresponding with people very much like themselves. Many of them already volunteer in our facility, but they wanted something any student could do directly from campus.
    We know from tracking our statistics that 80 percent of clients who engage deeply with us – and that means at least 40 hours of contact and 10 deep conversations with SYM staff – will set and achieve goals that lead to real changes in their lives. That’s about two times more than clients who engage with us less often. We believe so strongly in that dynamic that we update our statistics daily on the front page of our website (streetyouthministry.org).
    We know that our clients are in need, and we are delighted to have lots to share in the way of food and physical things. We also know our clients are short of support, so we want to be their guidance counselors through all the choices they need to make. And we know that most have been deeply hurt along life's journey so far, so we study hard to be agents of change, restoration and healing with our clients.
    This is the SYM way of doing things — our “theory of change” — and we are delighted that the UT students have learned this lesson.

Apr 20, 2019

Our clients mature in amazing ways!

   Bridgette sat, alone, on a sofa in our Drop-in Center, arms crossed, brow furrowed, staring at other clients. Clearly, she was annoyed.I wondered what I had done. As I watched the evening play out, however, I discovered something that made me smile. I’ll divulge that in a sec …
   We have lots of clients in our Drop-in. There are days they can come and go at will, and there are other days when they need to be on time to participate in scheduled activities like art group, prayer time, and peer support group. We met a record number of new clients last year -- almost 220 -- and they mixed with our existing clients so we served over 650 in all. Not everyone knows everyone else, although we help them form a community. Some are maturing and some are not.
   Lately, we've had a lot of new clients come to our center who are 15 to 19 years old. Most are fresh from foster care and usually boisterous. They can be very messy, because they haven't lived where they are asked to help keep things clean and straight. It's a challenge for sure to get them acclimated to us!
   We also have quite a few clients in the 22-to-26 age range who have been around for a while. They often have jobs and are living in supported housing that has come their way from grant money that SYM helped bring to Austin (It's called Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, if you want to research it). It's an experimental 3-year grant of $11 million for housing homeless young adults under 26.
   And it’s working: After just 6 months, statistics show 40% fewer unsheltered youth and 25% fewer homeless youth in Austin. Meanwhile, SYM client numbers grew by 40%. Somehow the YHDP grant is actually increasing the number of youth who want our counseling! And that's a great thing, because YHDP pays only for housing — no services.
   Back to Bridgette: On this particular night, we had a good mix of established clients who have benefitted from YHDP and new ones waiting to participate. The new clients were clique-ish. They arrived as a group, sat as a group, and went outside as a group. And everywhere they went, they left a mess.
   Bridgette was watching all of this. It turns out I hadn't annoyed her at all — it was the group! She rose from her seat, scooped up the scraps they had tossed onto the floor, then walked outside, only to see another mess on the ground. "This is ridiculous!” she exclaimed as she picked it up. “They shouldn't act like this!"
   I chuckled as I figured out what was going on. Twelve months ago, she was the one leaving the litter and we were picking up after her! It’s a pattern I’ve learned to recognize: Clients who shed their bad habits become annoyed when others don’t. Bridgette’s reaction was a sign of good things to come, so I welcomed it! She was growing up!
   We know our clients change their lives, get jobs, become more responsible, conquer past problems, and mature in amazing ways.It's truly a privilege to be their guidance counselors during this time. We believe every homeless young adult deserves one. We're now expanding our reach southward to San Marcos, but our real plan is to figure out how to train people who already have street youth in or near their lives and want to help!
   And we can't wait to see how each of these wonderful individuals turns out! .
Terry Cole

Jan 23, 2019


I am grateful for the shape of my life. I am grateful for the ways that I am gifted. And even though I am often jealous of other people‘s gifting, I am glad to be me. I am grateful that I have found a vocation that is just right for me. 
It combined so many things that I love: solving problems, teaching, learning new things, trying new things, helping others, relating to the outcast, orchestrating an amazing machine with lots of moving parts, crossing cultural barriers, and sharing good news for a better world.

I am grateful for the people I journey with. I love my family of origin. I love the legacy they have given me. I love the family that I created with my wife. I look forward to the possibility of loving families created by my children. I love the community that I have created In my various workplaces. I love the community that is being formed in the ministry to homeless young adults. I’m grateful for my church family—groups that form For worship, discipleship, service, morning, celebration, and discernment. Each is unique and a blessing.
I am grateful for money, but I am more grateful to be freed from its enslavement on my life. I think it no small chance that God changed me from being employed to create wealth to being called to serve others without wealth, Without the possibility of company ownership, and without further amassing personal wealth. I am truly glad to be dependent. I always was, but it is a blessing to see the literal dependency on the gifts of others to follow my vocation. I am not creating a company that I own. I am not creating a profit. I am not being paid what I am “worth“ by trade or training. I am supported by the gifts of others who have come to understand my calling and want me to pursue it. God‘s blessing in my life is bigger, but is hard to name and earthly blessing larger than the support of so many people for my vocation.
As unexpected as the blessing of support has been, probably the most surprising blessing has come from including 5000 or more homeless broken and simultaneously amazing young adults in my life. They are so interesting. They are so strong. They are so diverse. It is not the reward of serving them but simply the reward of being with them that is such a blessing. The things they have taught me. The things they have made me think about. The glimpses of life that I can never fully understand but that I could also never experience myself. They have added a richness to my life that was completely unexpected. The blessings dwarfs any gratitude for accomplishment Or even growth that could come from serving.

I cannot write about gratitude without mentioning my sweet and amazing loyal companion, Rosie. That God would create a relationship between a man and a beast of such depth boggles the mind. Truly do know the love of a dog is to learn something of the unconditional love that God has for us.
I am grateful for the rhythms of life. For day and night. I used to bemoan that there wasn’t enough time in the day until someone pointed out that it was beyond arrogance To force everyone else to endure another hour just because I felt like I didn’t get enough done. I am grateful for the rhythm of a week. Often it feels as if Monday through Saturday is some type of marathon. But somehow I cross the finish line into Sunday and into worship.

There I am refreshed and rejuvenated and somehow ready to run into the next week. I am grateful for the rhythm of the seasons. I try to enjoy the cold of a cold day, the heat of a hot day, and everything in between. They are exactly as created and I was created to experience and indeed live in them. And I enjoy the rhythm of the calendar. Birthdays passing. Holidays celebrated. I have come to see the wisdom in the ecclesiastic calendar. The beginning of the year without vent. The celebration of Christmas. Preparation for Easter. A risen Lord. Pentecost. Life with the spirit. It all feels right. 
Finally I am grateful for perspective. Whether it’s focusing on tiny things or stepping back to see the big picture. Whether it’s looking externally or looking inwardly. Whether it’s looking to the physical world or into the spiritual realm. There is an order And a beauty and a wholeness. It is good. But the fact that I can twist any of it for my evil purposes keeps me humble and grateful for forgiveness. Jesus loved me first. He was willing to give up even Godhood to save me. And heal me. And restore me. This is why I believe. This is why I behave – at least to the extent that I manage to behave. This is why I follow. And this is why I serve. 

Jan 22, 2019

Score for SYM at Souper Bowl of Caring!

Every year during the climax of the NFL season, the Souper Bowl of Caring event provides food or funds for the homeless. Turn your Super Bowl watching event into something better!
We'd love to be your designated recipient for SouperBowl activities. Register at the link below:


Jan 21, 2019

Drop-in 4.0 is open and operating!

       SYM intern Tondra Daily shows off a clean and newly re-organized Drop-in Center, with refreshments ready to be served for the opening day celebration Jan. 4. It was a great success!

       It's our fourth iteration of improving services since we began operating our Drop-in Center in January of 2017. This year we are focused on even more client engagement. We've created more space for larger groups and more semi-private conversations. We've created a better on-boarding process for individual volunteers, and we've installed two workstations for seasoned volunteers to help other volunteers make a difference with each volunteer shift!

      We invite you to took a tour and come check it out!


Dec 8, 2018

Fund raising

Our end-of-year
fund-raising goal
is $83,801. You
can help us reach it!
Trusted. Inspiring. Empowering. Fresh.
These are the words that describe us. By giving now, you will keep these services going as planned. This goal was calculated carefully from what we will have spent on services from January to now in 2018! In addition, we are seeking $25,000 to begin our San Antonio pilot operations in 2019.


Dec 7, 2018

SYM clients observe Dia de los Muertos

'A peaceful, beautiful moment'
Dia de los Muertos is a religious remembrance of family and friends who have died. It is celebrated throughout Mexico and among Hispanics in the U.S., including SYM clients who gathered for regular Bible study in the Drop-in recently under the guidance of Zarah, our fall intern. Some clients made private altars called ofrendas (at right), a great means of being creative and learning about others’ cultures. “It was a very peaceful and beautiful moment,” Zarah said.

Dec 6, 2018

Meet Porshia

Meet Porshia, our new staff member!
Porshia Sauls, newest member of our SYM team, will work around the Drop-in Center. Please welcome her to the cause!

She was born and raised in Austin and recently graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She enjoys singing and dancing. She has a passion for others and believes everyone deserves to have a fair chance in life.