Feb 1, 2017

2016 Highlights in Review


2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #10

Clients Come Inside to Enjoy Showtime
This summer was quite hot, and we had a wonderful invitation from long-time partner St. Austin's Parish Church to use an air-conditioned fellowship room to give our clients a break. Together, we watched two movies each Friday afternoon and shared snacks and dinner together. It became one of our most popular indoor events! Clients surprised us with their movie choices, such as "Homeward Bound," "Hairspray," and "Daddy's Home!"


2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #9
LifeWorks, SYM Strategic Agreement

In October, we learned of a new opportunity for a permanent home for SYM. We forged a much-expanded alliance with Congregational Church of Austin to utilize its basement as a new Drop-In Cooperative center, where clients can get safety net services, receive guidance counseling, and learn soft life skills for jobs and apartment living. We also expanded our partnership with LifeWorks, which will provide counseling, case management and group support in our Drop-In Center. The photo shows leaders of the three organizations. 

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #8
Computer Lab and Shower Time

Our clients have always wanted access to a clean and safe shower. We were blessed to receive an invitation from University Presbyterian Church to use its fellowship hall, including shower, once a week. We equipped the room with computers so waiting clients can do other things. We also provide access to piano and guitar. Nothing like hanging out after a nice, refreshing shower! In the photo, a client and a volunteer share an interest in drawing.

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #7
Darvin Receives his Work Visa

Darvin Tan started with SYM as an intern in 2015, and he discerned that his calling was to stay. However, he didn't have a visa. We applied for a religious work visa for him and, amazingly, received very rapid approval! Darvin is key to keeping our ministry working smoothly. Darvin staffed our annual Turkey Grab, something we do for clients who have recovered from the street every year so they can serve others with a homemade meal. Darvin posed at left with turkey donors from Mothers of Professional Football Players.

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #6
SYM Joins 100-Day Youth Challenge
This year we partnered with LifeWorks and ECHO on a 100-day challenge to house as many street-dependent youths under age 25 as possible. Our role was to make sure clients completed the application form and 27 of our clients from the West Campus streets did so! Each youth in the photo and many others were placed into apartments. If they meet the criteria and become able to pay rent, they will be able to remain there!

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #5
LifeWorks/SYM Halloween Party

This year, LifeWorks, SYM and University Presbyterian Church combined forces to throw an awesome Halloween party for our clients, complete with costumes, face painting, treats, grilled burgers and hot dogs, and a raffle. We were joined by UT student athletes from many sports. They painted faces, played Jenga and other games, and drew prizes for our raffle. In the photo, a client challenges a UT student to a game of bean bag toss.                                        

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #4
Matt and Jared, Super Interns
We were blessed to have two summer interns this year! Jared Dale and Matthew Powell were our high school interns. They learned to interact safely with clients, operate our many events, and master the fine art of logistics!
Read about our internships and pass the word to mature high school juniors. Our weekly stipend is not a lot, but it's enough to keep one from needing a second job.  

2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #3
A Safer Arrival for Babies


Deon, above, holds one of our newest SYM clients. Her mother got off the street quickly once she learned she was pregnant. When we became aware of high miscarriage and infant death rates among our pregnant clients, we focused on the problem. We raised awareness. We asked them to count the number of months they spent on the street, and work to reduce that number. Several of our clients moved back home, got jobs, and found prenatal care. When their babies arrived, there was room and love for them!

'Giving ... an easy way to help'
“Giving financially to SYM is an easy way to help, since I am not close enough to volunteer. They help these youths go to college with textbook scholarships, celebrate accomplishments like staying off alcohol and drugs. I am impressed with SYM, its volunteers and the street youth themselves for what they are doing.”
-- A donor, posted on-line at GreatNon-profits.org
2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #2
A Christmas to Celebrate


Our end-of-year celebration of Christmas was fabulous. Forty-one clients and 30 volunteers -- including the happy kitchen crew above -- gathered to celebrate the coming of Jesus. We were hosted by the Daughters of the King from All Saints Episcopal Church. We celebrated a lot of amazing accomplishments by our clients, including moving into apartments, having healthy babies, getting jobs, being sober, going to college and more!

'... a labor of love and faith ...'
“We have been involved with Street Youth Ministry for several years, making sandwiches, and clothing donations and have been watching the dedication that Terry Cole has for the street youth. We get regular newsletters and emails and prayer requests that are evidence of the great labor of love and faith that defines this organization.”
-- Posted on GreatNonprofits.com


2016 SYM Top Ministry Moment #1
'Second Chance' Prom



We team up with LifeWorks to offer a Second Chance Prom each year to all our clients. This is so inspirational for them! They get dressed up, pose for portraits taken by a professional photographer (as above), are treated like prom royalty, and walk taller and prouder for weeks afterwards. Your assistance is pivotal!

'He's everywhere, all the time...'

“You don't really find him -- Terry has a way of finding you. We move around, but no matter where we go Terry finds us and talks to us. He is just this guy walking his dog, like you would see anyone, but then he stops and talks to you and tells you there are ways to get off the street. Even if you don't believe him at first, he is everywhere, all the time, so you can't help but wonder what’s up.”
-- Client, as told to a volunteer

Jan 27, 2017

Being loved by Austin Christian Fellowship



Local ministries supported by Austin Christian Fellowship (ACF) were recently invited to a meeting. There were about 80 people in the room. I have been to local ministry meetings before, but never anything as awesome as this!

First, we worshiped together. Nothing feeds my soul better than a mid-week worship. If you see me and I'm down, invite me to a worship service. Always a pick-me-up!

​Next, Sr. Pastor Will (a pastor in the church... not the pastor of the church) gave us an inspirational message that resonated with, "Thank you!" He provided scriptures that reminded us we are called into God's Holy purpose and that ACF is in partnership with us. He reminded us that we must not be in competition but be brothers and sisters alongside one another. And he reminded us that even though we are just being obedient to God's call on our lives to live in daily ministry, God the Father honors us for doing so. It's a crazy thing to think about.


Will did lay down a few challenges to us: Pray more; Build out faster; Give away even some of our money. Will said he's never yet heard from God, "Hey, that's enough praying. Stop that." Good point. He also said that he's discovered that when we focus on building outward, God focuses on building inward on us so we are able to do what we have planned outwards. Quite encouraging! And then Will said we should all consider tithing even with our donated funds. Finding someone to build into ourselves. Wow! We ask our staff to volunteer 1% of their time at another organization just to learn and give. I've been considering how we could donate to some other-country solution for the equivalent of our clients. But I never considered giving 10% away. What would that look like? How would God respond?




Then we had a really special gift. ACF loves local mission and nonprofits so much they have partnered with Mission Capital to create a non-profit training program for faith-based ministries. Once this program is out of pilot, ministries will no longer have to struggle with translating secular terms and best practices into church environments. And just to get things started, ACF has arranged to give each ministry they support $750 scholarship at Mission Capital for training in 2017! These are just super exciting things.

Finally, they put us at tables and asked us to network. SYM sat next to someone who might be able to find me a mentor (I've been looking for a while). SYM met a group who goes into juvenile detention centers and does prevention work. We've been toying with how to do this, but together I'm sure we'll have a better solution. And we were at the table with a brand new free clinic. We no longer have a free clinic option for our clients so this was welcome news!


It was a fantastic way to love me. I so appreciate it. I repeated much of the content to my staff so they would feel loved. And I'm going to share it with church partners because I've never seen quite this approach. I think it was awesome! Way to go, God!

Local ministry creating a home for homeless young adults

 Jay Wallis, KVUE 8:28 PM. CST January 25, 2017



AUSTIN ­ Mayor Steve Adler and many in the city of Austin have focused on getting the homeless off the streets and into housing. For many of the young adults in our area, this transition can be difficult to handle, which is why an outlet in Austin is providing something unique and vital for the homeless.
 
Terry Cole is a native­born Texan and attended Texas A&M for electrical engineering. This was his career until 2008, when he was laid off from his job.
 
"Along the way, I started becoming aware that I had interests in evangelism and mission work," Cole said.
 
While he held his different electrical engineering positions, Cole had done volunteer work with some of the churches he attended. In 2003, he started to devote some of his free to time to working with young adults who were homeless.

"There were these homeless people who were young and kind of had no one to tell them the gospel story," Cole said.

So after losing his job, Cole decided to make his volunteer work his new career. He created Street Youth Ministry of Austin in 2008, an organization focused on giving homeless people between the ages of 18­30 a place to get what they need.

"We are a faith ­based ministry but more than that, we are faith active," Cole said. "Not everything we do is in­ your­ face faith active. It's all voluntary. We don't make anybody do anything."

Christopher Willemsen was born and raised in Austin, before finding himself in a difficult situation as he entered adulthood.

"Around 18­years­old, I started couch­surfing and was homeless," Willemsen said. "I had a bad background and winded up slipping out on the streets. I had to deal with the drugs or the alcohol every single day."

He is a much different person today, as he is not only involved with Street Youth Ministry but another local ministry ­­ LifeWorks ­­ as well.

"In here, it's real," Willemsen said. "It's almost like a reality check to where in some groups or meetings, you can't open up the way that we open up here."

Street Youth Ministry is also much different than when it started. For the first eight years of its existence, this ministry bounced around from church to church, meeting at whatever location would take them.

"We were like a pop­up ministry," Cole said. "It was really hard for our clients to find us and it was a real nightmare to volunteer for us."

Marissa Bostick started working as an associate missionary for Street Youth Ministry around the time a change came for this ministry ­­ a permanent location. The Congregational Church of Austin has allowed Cole's group to meet during the week in the church's basement.

"This is a safe place where anyone can come," Bostick said. "There's no obligations. We don't have an agenda. We don't want to force you to do anything. We just want them to come and say, 'Hey, we're all here together.'"

When the homeless come throughout the week, Cole's ministry provides many different types of outlets. While some days they will have a Bible study, other days are solely focused on giving people a place for conversation. The basement also has an area of used clothes, books and other items for anyone to take if they need it. There are also couches if someone needs to get some sleep while there is almost always food available in the kitchen.

"Whatever you need, we're just here to help," Bostick said. "Obviously, if you're trying to teach someone about God, they're not going to be listening if they're hungry. It's about taking care of all their needs."

James Benson has been going to this ministry for about a year now, as he moved to Austin from Birmingham, Alabama to start a career in music.

"I've been in music all of my life," Benson said. "I write songs all the time."

While his career hasn't sparked like he thought it would and he now finds himself to be homeless, he said this ministry has helped him focus on aspects of his life other than his career.

"I can't say that I'm the richest guy or the poorest guy, but I can actually say that throughout my day, I'm pretty comfortable," Benson said. "I don't care what I have in my pocket or where I slept the night before, I know God is going to keep a shelter and roof over my head and food in my belly."

Benson also said that the ability to keep making and writing music allows him to stay optimistic.

"To understand that what I write down on that paper and how fluently it comes off my brain through that pen on that paper let me know this is a gift from God," Benson said.

Bil Taban grew up in Sudan, Africa before his parents sent him to America as a child 14 years ago. Bil has fallen on tough times and is homeless, but he still hopes to one day have a career.

"I want to become a successful pilot," Taban said. "I like space. I love space. Everything about galaxies and science."

With the city of Austin emphasizing re­housing the homeless, Cole said he wants to better prepare his members for when that time comes.

"We have arguments or disagreements that break out, and we moderate those and encourage them to reach an end," Cole said. "The problem so often turns out to be living with other people and getting along with roommates."

Benson at one point got in one of these arguments, causing a disruption during one of the classes. He was suspended for 30 days, but he was able to return.

"I was allowed to come back because I was standing up for the right cause," Benson said. "I'm definitely learning how I am needing to act."

"I've learned to have respect for others as I have had to learn and had to grasp throughout the years," Willemsen said. "You can lift up your head. You can choose to be a part of this program. You can choose to come down to Bible study."

While Cole's ministry has many churches supporting his group, he said he is in need of belts and shoes right now. To learn more about this ministry, you can visit streetyouthministry.org (http://streetyouthministry.org).

Dec 27, 2016

End of Year Blowout

https://sites.google.com/a/streetyouthministry.org/street-youth-ministry-classic/home


4 ways you can support us!


Help us break even for 2016!We need only $10,000 more to reach our year-end giving goal!



Pray for one specific client every three to four weeks.



Top Ten Highlights of 2016


1. 'Second Chance' Prom


We team up with LifeWorks to offer a Second Chance Prom each year to all our clients. This is so inspirational for them! They get dressed up, pose for portraits taken by a professional photographer (as above), are treated like prom royalty, and walk taller and prouder for weeks afterwards. Your assistance is pivotal!

'He's everywhere, all the time...'
“You don't really find him -- Terry has a way of finding you. We move around, but no matter where we go Terry finds us and talks to us. He is just this guy walking his dog, like you would see anyone, but then he stops and talks to you and tells you there are ways to get off the street. Even if you don't believe him at first, he is everywhere, all the time, so you can't help but wonder what’s up.”
-- Client, as told to a volunteer



2. A Christmas to celebrate!


Our end-of-year celebration of Christmas was fabulous. Forty-one clients and 30 volunteers -- including the happy kitchen crew above -- gathered to celebrate the coming of Jesus. We were hosted by the Daughters of the King from All Saints Episcopal Church. We celebrated a lot of amazing accomplishments by our clients, including moving into apartments, having healthy babies, getting jobs, being sober, going to college and more!

'... a labor of love and faith ...'

“We have been involved with Street Youth Ministry for several years, making sandwiches, and clothing donations and have been watching the dedication that Terry Cole has for the street youth. We get regular newsletters and emails and prayer requests that are evidence of the great labor of love and faith that defines this organization.”
-- Posted on GreatNonprofits.com



3. A safer arrival for babies!


Deon, above, holds one of our newest SYM clients. Her mother got off the street quickly once she learned she was pregnant. When we became aware of high miscarriage and infant death rates among our pregnant clients, we focused on the problem. We raised awareness. We asked them to count the number of months they spent on the street, and work to reduce that number. Several of our clients moved back home, got jobs, and found prenatal care. When their babies arrived, there was room and love for them!

'Giving ... an easy way to help'
“Giving financially to SYM is an easy way to help, since I am not close enough to volunteer. They help these youths go to college with textbook scholarships, celebrate accomplishments like staying off alcohol and drugs. I am impressed with SYM, its volunteers and the street youth themselves for what they are doing.”
-- A donor, posted on-line at GreatNon-profits.org


4. Matt and Jared, Super interns
We were blessed to have two summer interns this year! Jared Dale and Matthew Powell were our high school interns. They learned to interact safely with clients, operate our many events, and master the fine art of logistics!
Read about our internships and pass the word to mature high school juniors. Our weekly stipend is not a lot, but it's enough to keep one from needing a second job.  

5. LifeWorks/SYM Halloween Party
This year, LifeWorks, SYM and University Presbyterian Church combined forces to throw an awesome Halloween party for our clients, complete with costumes, face painting, treats, grilled burgers and hot dogs, and a raffle. We were joined by UT student athletes from many sports. They painted faces, played Jenga and other games, and drew prizes for our raffle. In the photo, a client challenges a UT student to a game of bean bag toss.                                        

6. SYM joins 100-Day Youth Challenge
This year we partnered with LifeWorks and ECHO on a 100-day challenge to house as many street-dependent youths under age 25 as possible. Our role was to make sure clients completed the application form and 27 of our clients from the West Campus streets did so! Each youth in the photo and many others were placed into apartments. If they meet the criteria and become able to pay rent, they will be able to remain there!

7. Darvin Receives His Work Visa
Darvin Tan started with SYM as an intern in 2015, and he discerned that his calling was to stay. However, he didn't have a visa. We applied for a religious work visa for him and, amazingly, received very rapid approval! Darvin is key to keeping our ministry working smoothly. Darvin staffed our annual Turkey Grab, something we do for clients who have recovered from the street every year so they can serve others with a homemade meal. Darvin posed at left with turkey donors from Mothers of Professional Football Players.


8. Computer Lab and Shower Time
Our clients have always wanted access to a clean and safe shower. We were blessed to receive an invitation from University Presbyterian Church to use its fellowship hall, including shower, once a week. We equipped the room with computers so waiting clients can do other things. We also provide access to piano and guitar. Nothing like hanging out after a nice, refreshing shower! In the photo, a client and a volunteer share an interest in drawing.

9. LifeWorks, SYM Strategic Agreement
In October, we learned of a new opportunity for a permanent home for SYM. We forged a much-expanded alliance with Congregational Church of Austin to utilize its basement as a new Drop-In Cooperative center, where clients can get safety net services, receive guidance counseling, and learn soft life skills for jobs and apartment living. We also expanded our partnership with LifeWorks, which will provide counseling, case management and group support in our Drop-In Center. The photo shows leaders of the three organizations.

10. Clients come inside to enjoy Showtime!
This summer was quite hot, and we had a wonderful invitation from long-time partner St. Austin's Parish Church to use an air-conditioned fellowship room to give our clients a break. Together, we watched two movies each Friday afternoon and shared snacks and dinner together. It became one of our most popular indoor events! Clients surprised us with their movie choices, such as "Homeward Bound," "Hairspray," and "Daddy's Home!"


4 ways you can support us!



Help us break even for 2016!We need only $10,000 more to reach our year-end giving goal!


Pray for one specific client every three to four weeks.






Dec 14, 2016

Drop-In Center: what is it, and where will SYM take it?


This is the rest of the “Drop-In Center: what is it, and where will SYM take it?”

This will involve the merging of the Lifeworks “Drop-In” culture with the SYM “Relationship-Based Event” culture. It will be a step-by-step process over the next 24 months:
1. To facilitate this merger, a relationship event will be held every day at 11am in the new space. This is not a come-and-go affair. It is a programmed event with a beginning, middle, and end. Clients who desire to form relationships and build community (as well as have lunch) will have the opportunity to do so during the event.
2. Next, we will transition to a drop-in format from 2 to 6pm. This will be an open time for clients to come and go. Buffet meals will be available at 2 and 5pm.
3. Another critical piece of the transition is the addition of the name Co-op to the Drop-in. This will help the clients understand that they are expected to give back to our community as they receive services. They can give back by helping with setup, cleanup, organization and other tasks. Not all will be able to act as cooperative partners initially, but the message will be that we believe they all need to start moving to that goal.
4. Some unique services of SYM, like access to the Fig Leaf Clothing Closet and the University Presbyterian Church shower facilities, will continue until we can offer equivalent access in other ways in our own facility. Other SYM programs like legal support groups and employment support will be folded into the Drop-In schedule. SYM plans include LifeWorks’ mobile case management staff and group counseling services to continue using the Drop-In location to visit clients and provide services. We hope to invite other providers as well.
5. The transition will open opportunities for additional services and to serve new groups of clients. In January, we will be increasing from four meals per week to providing eight meals per week. We will also be adding a canned food pantry for taking food away when needed. We are forming a team under an experienced food clinician.

6. Beginning in March, we hope to offer services to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims in partnership with Allies Against Slavery. This will increase the number of clients being served.

Dec 12, 2016

Making It Through the Holidays After a Traumatic Past



candles-1892895_1920.jpg

Photo via Pixabay by Ralfor

Everyone is supposed to be full of good cheer and happiness during the holiday season.  Decorations and twinkling lights signify a time of giving and festivities, and as you are just stepping into adulthood, shouldn’t you be ready to jump into the celebrations?  As a trauma survivor, it can be hard to forget events of the past and truly enjoy the holidays when they arrive.  
Traumatic events have shaped your sense of security and ability to feel joy during the holiday season.  It takes time for you to recover from those events and break down walls you may have built to keep you safe.  It is possible to find ways to cope, move forward with your life, and eventually enjoy the holidays.  
You Are an Adult
The trauma you have suffered may have occurred in part due to an adult not being around to help you or take proper care of you before or after the event.  Try to remember that now you are an adult and can care of and love yourself.  Think about who you are today and who you want to be.  You have the power in your life and can make important choices that are good for your well-being.  
The holidays are busy with parties and family get-togethers, but you can make choices not to be around people who are dismissive of your past trauma or in places that may remind you of it.  Remembering that you are of legal age and can leave a situation that is stressful can be a freeing experience.  Alternatively, small doses of difficult situations will boost confidence and independence.  
Connect with Others
Traumatic events make people want to withdraw and isolate themselves from others.  Most of the time being alone makes things worse, especially during the holidays.  Making an effort to maintain some relationships with trusted family members or friends can help you recover.  Talking about the trauma is not necessary if you are not comfortable with that yet.  Connecting about other life issues and interests can help you feel like part of a bigger picture in which you are necessary and wanted.  
Join a support group for trauma survivors or talk with a clergy member, counselor, or therapist.  Do not be afraid to seek help.  Talking with others who have shared similar experiences or know how to help you cope with those experiences will reduce stress, anxiety, and loneliness.  
Make a Holiday Game Plan
Keep your expectations realistic.  The holidays do not mean automatic happiness and perfect family celebrations.  Think about what holiday traditions you want to continue and new ones that you’d like to bring into your life to make you happy.  The things you value about the season can be completely different than the next person.  Focus on what you would like to do with people you would be happy to be with.  
If you decide to attend holiday parties, plan for ways to cope with memories by actively diverting your attention.  You can go help the host in the kitchen, get involved in a board game with friends or family, or watch a funny holiday movie.  You can even take a trusted friend with you to actively engage in conversation and party festivities with.
Avoid drinking and drugs, as these tend to exaggerate emotions and anxiety.  Plan to get your own drinks and food, or bring your own to avoid being handed things during the party.
Take Care of You
Staying healthy during the holidays increases your ability to handle stress and helps keep emotions in check.  Avoid too much junk food and eat more frequent, small meals to keep blood sugar levels even and curb mood swings.  Get plenty of sleep and try to stay on a set sleep schedule.  Lack of sleep can stress your body and make you more susceptible to getting sick.  
The holidays can be hectic, but schedule time for exercise and relaxation.  Exercise will give you energy to face the day, boost your confidence, and help you sleep better.  Whether it’s going to a gym, running or biking outside, or resuming a favorite sport, try to fit it into your holidays and your life.  
Don’t forget your mental and emotional well-being.  Avoid speaking negatively about yourself, and bolster your confidence by finding all the positives.  Look around and enjoy the things that make the holidays beautiful to you.  You made it this far, you are stepping into adulthood, and you are in charge of your life.  


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.

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