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.

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