December 28, 2019

Street Youth Ministry Uses Art to Reframe Conversation on Homelessness


Reposting an article from Reporting Texas published on December 19, 2019

Street Youth Ministry 

Uses Art to Reframe

Conversation on Homelessness

Reporting Texas
A collection of purple, orange and green stones appeared in front of the Congregational Church of Austin in early October. The stones were decorated to resemble pumpkins, and some were painted with words of affirmation such as “love” and “pride.”

A prayer garden made of painted rocks marks the entrance to the Street Youth Ministry’s facility in the basement of the Congregational Church on 23rd Street in Austin, Texas. The rocks are a way for the ministry to draw attention to the positive impact of its mission. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Throughout November and December, more art popped up: a face and scarf on the tree in front of the church, colorful chalk art messages on the sidewalk and hearts and peace symbols stenciled on planter pots.
The group responsible for the guerilla art was Street Youth Ministry, which wanted to draw attention to the ministry and positively impact the thousands of people who pass the building every day, said Terry Cole, the ministry’s founder. He said the ministry began creating the installations after the Austin City Council lifted a camping ban and made other changes in the city’s approach to homelessness, which sparked contentious debate.

An art installation created by Street Youth Ministry clients showcases their desire to send a positive message to the community. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
“We really just wanted to say to the neighborhood: ‘We love you, and we want to be kind to you as well,’” said Suzanne Zucca, Street Youth Ministry staff member.
Nestled in the heart of West Campus, Street Youth Ministry is located in the basement of the Congregational Church of Austin. The faith-based ministry is a day center that assists young people experiencing homelessness. Staffers refer to them as clients.

Volunteers of Street Youth Ministry set up arts and crafts for clients to make nativity scenes and angels. The program offers  practical things like clothing, counseling and food, but its goal is “to know, love and serve street-dependent youth so they might come to know Christ,” according to its annual report. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
According to its mission statement, the goal of the ministry is “to know, love and serve street-dependent youth so they might come to know Christ through the witnessing community we develop.” According to the ministry’s 2018 annual report, it provides clients with “practical things to help meet immediate needs.” Cole said the ministry is not an overnight facility.

Volunteers, such as Lorena Garza, a UT-Austin social work freshman, play a crucial role in the ministry by cleaning and organizing the basement of the Congregational Church, where the program is housed. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The ministry offers a variety of services: access to food, counseling, clothing and gear such as bicycles and sleeping bags. Founded in 2008, the ministry serves about 600 clients up to 28 years old every year.
According GuideStar, a service that reports on U.S. non-profits, the ministry reported $492,267 in gross receipts during its most recent fiscal year. According to the ministry’s 2018 year-end report, 45% of its income is from private individuals and 30% is from in-kind giving. Additional funding comes from grants, churches and other sources. According to the report, 94% of every dollar spent by the ministry goes toward program services with the remaining 6% allotted to administration and fundraising.
Cole said the ministry employs eight staffers as guidance counselors and resources on matters related to drugs, physical and mental health and safe sex practices.

Street Youth Ministry volunteer Lorena Garza, left, plays dominoes with Deon Watts, right, and another client of the Street Youth Ministry during a weekly game night on Nov. 19, 2019.  Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The team is trained to handle difficult situations and deal with people in crisis, but Cole said team members are not doctors, social workers or licensed therapists. Nearly 1,000 individuals volunteer with the ministry every year, Cole said.

Patrick Hudson, left, removes a block from a giant Jenga set while volunteering at the Street Youth Ministry’s weekly game night with other UT-Austin students Shad Khan, center, and Nuvia Cruz. The ministry’s proximity to the University allows students to accumulate volunteer hours for class and service organizations. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Austin’s homeless population has remained relatively steady since the ministry began its work.
According to the Point In Time Count compiled annually by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, 2,087 people were counted in 2010. The lowest recorded number, 1,832, occurred in 2015. In 2019, the number of individuals increased to 2,255; 50% were between the ages of 18-44.
According to ECHO, the leading factors contributing to homelessness include inadequate access to health care, lack of engagement in school or employment and time spent in juvenile detention or jail.

Two members visit the Street Youth Ministry basement to have a meal and fill out paperwork on Dec 3, 2019. The ministry opens everyday at 12 p.m. and provides a safe space for people 28 years old and younger. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
In July, when the city passed an ordinance that decriminalized sitting, lying and camping in public places, people who had been sleeping in the woods and other unsafe areas started sleeping on the streets, Cole said. A population that had been hidden became more visible.
In reaction to the heightened visibility, Gov. Greg Abbott retweeted a video of a man attacking a car in downtown Austin. It was later revealed that the video was over a year old and the person recorded was not experiencing homelessness. Cole said the misleading post had a negative impact on public perception of homeless people and a “scarring” effect on the city.

A sign posted at the 23rd street Artist’s Market notifies visitors that the Street Youth Ministry cleans the area. The ministry’s staff hope the message will counter some negative perceptions of people experiencing homelessness. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The idea for the art installation emerged amid this conversation. Cole said he wanted people walking by their building to notice a positive change and reflect on how the ministry is serving its clients.
Two clients who worked on the installation agreed to talk to Reporting Texas but declined to give their full names.
Red said she painted a rock that resembles a “golden ghost” the day she was taken to jail for having too many unpaid tickets. By the time she got out of jail, other clients had added the face to the tree in front of the building.

Red, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, laughs as her friend pulls out a bullhorn while they sit near the entrance of the Street Youth Ministry basement on Dec 3, 2019. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
Red, 28, said she has traveled through Austin six times over the past decade. A friend introduced her to the ministry three years ago, and since then she has utilized its services.
She participates in Girl’s Group, a peer support group that discusses topics such as toxic relationships and the difficulties that face women who live on the streets. If she hadn’t heard about the ministry, Red said, she would have died in Austin because she knew few people and didn’t know where to stay.
“I feel like we have a family, and that’s rare around here,” Red said. “Like we have our street family, but you can’t talk to your street family about certain things, you know, you’ve got to stay within the mindset of ‘I can survive.’”
Arthur also helped create the installation. He created a collection of rocks painted with single words of prayer like “love,” “pride,” and “joy.”

Halloween-themed prayer rocks that youth ministry client, Arthur, helped create, decorate the base of a tree outside the entrance to the Street Youth Ministry. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Arthur, 27, said he came to Austin four years ago with his former husband. When they divorced, he ended up on the streets. He said his “blood sister” told him Street Youth Ministry could help him, but he didn’t know if he would be accepted because of his sexual orientation. In other places he said he has felt out of place and unwelcome.

Street Youth Ministry client Arthur, whose nickname is Summer Rose, sings Carrie Underwood’s, “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” during the weekly talent night on Nov. 20, 2019. Arthur, said the ministry has come to feel like a family to him. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Earlier this year, he said he was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. Since the diagnosis, members of the ministry have prayed for him, Arthur said, and in return he has volunteered to prepare food, wash dishes and clean the space.
“It feels like I’m back at home with my own family,” Arthur said. “There’s no other place I would rather be than here. I don’t want to separate from the people that have taken care of me.”

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December 28, 2019

Street Youth Ministry Uses Art to Reframe Conversation on Homelessness


Reposting an article from Reporting Texas published on December 19, 2019

Street Youth Ministry 

Uses Art to Reframe

Conversation on Homelessness

Reporting Texas
A collection of purple, orange and green stones appeared in front of the Congregational Church of Austin in early October. The stones were decorated to resemble pumpkins, and some were painted with words of affirmation such as “love” and “pride.”

A prayer garden made of painted rocks marks the entrance to the Street Youth Ministry’s facility in the basement of the Congregational Church on 23rd Street in Austin, Texas. The rocks are a way for the ministry to draw attention to the positive impact of its mission. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Throughout November and December, more art popped up: a face and scarf on the tree in front of the church, colorful chalk art messages on the sidewalk and hearts and peace symbols stenciled on planter pots.
The group responsible for the guerilla art was Street Youth Ministry, which wanted to draw attention to the ministry and positively impact the thousands of people who pass the building every day, said Terry Cole, the ministry’s founder. He said the ministry began creating the installations after the Austin City Council lifted a camping ban and made other changes in the city’s approach to homelessness, which sparked contentious debate.

An art installation created by Street Youth Ministry clients showcases their desire to send a positive message to the community. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
“We really just wanted to say to the neighborhood: ‘We love you, and we want to be kind to you as well,’” said Suzanne Zucca, Street Youth Ministry staff member.
Nestled in the heart of West Campus, Street Youth Ministry is located in the basement of the Congregational Church of Austin. The faith-based ministry is a day center that assists young people experiencing homelessness. Staffers refer to them as clients.

Volunteers of Street Youth Ministry set up arts and crafts for clients to make nativity scenes and angels. The program offers  practical things like clothing, counseling and food, but its goal is “to know, love and serve street-dependent youth so they might come to know Christ,” according to its annual report. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
According to its mission statement, the goal of the ministry is “to know, love and serve street-dependent youth so they might come to know Christ through the witnessing community we develop.” According to the ministry’s 2018 annual report, it provides clients with “practical things to help meet immediate needs.” Cole said the ministry is not an overnight facility.

Volunteers, such as Lorena Garza, a UT-Austin social work freshman, play a crucial role in the ministry by cleaning and organizing the basement of the Congregational Church, where the program is housed. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The ministry offers a variety of services: access to food, counseling, clothing and gear such as bicycles and sleeping bags. Founded in 2008, the ministry serves about 600 clients up to 28 years old every year.
According GuideStar, a service that reports on U.S. non-profits, the ministry reported $492,267 in gross receipts during its most recent fiscal year. According to the ministry’s 2018 year-end report, 45% of its income is from private individuals and 30% is from in-kind giving. Additional funding comes from grants, churches and other sources. According to the report, 94% of every dollar spent by the ministry goes toward program services with the remaining 6% allotted to administration and fundraising.
Cole said the ministry employs eight staffers as guidance counselors and resources on matters related to drugs, physical and mental health and safe sex practices.

Street Youth Ministry volunteer Lorena Garza, left, plays dominoes with Deon Watts, right, and another client of the Street Youth Ministry during a weekly game night on Nov. 19, 2019.  Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The team is trained to handle difficult situations and deal with people in crisis, but Cole said team members are not doctors, social workers or licensed therapists. Nearly 1,000 individuals volunteer with the ministry every year, Cole said.

Patrick Hudson, left, removes a block from a giant Jenga set while volunteering at the Street Youth Ministry’s weekly game night with other UT-Austin students Shad Khan, center, and Nuvia Cruz. The ministry’s proximity to the University allows students to accumulate volunteer hours for class and service organizations. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Austin’s homeless population has remained relatively steady since the ministry began its work.
According to the Point In Time Count compiled annually by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, 2,087 people were counted in 2010. The lowest recorded number, 1,832, occurred in 2015. In 2019, the number of individuals increased to 2,255; 50% were between the ages of 18-44.
According to ECHO, the leading factors contributing to homelessness include inadequate access to health care, lack of engagement in school or employment and time spent in juvenile detention or jail.

Two members visit the Street Youth Ministry basement to have a meal and fill out paperwork on Dec 3, 2019. The ministry opens everyday at 12 p.m. and provides a safe space for people 28 years old and younger. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
In July, when the city passed an ordinance that decriminalized sitting, lying and camping in public places, people who had been sleeping in the woods and other unsafe areas started sleeping on the streets, Cole said. A population that had been hidden became more visible.
In reaction to the heightened visibility, Gov. Greg Abbott retweeted a video of a man attacking a car in downtown Austin. It was later revealed that the video was over a year old and the person recorded was not experiencing homelessness. Cole said the misleading post had a negative impact on public perception of homeless people and a “scarring” effect on the city.

A sign posted at the 23rd street Artist’s Market notifies visitors that the Street Youth Ministry cleans the area. The ministry’s staff hope the message will counter some negative perceptions of people experiencing homelessness. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
The idea for the art installation emerged amid this conversation. Cole said he wanted people walking by their building to notice a positive change and reflect on how the ministry is serving its clients.
Two clients who worked on the installation agreed to talk to Reporting Texas but declined to give their full names.
Red said she painted a rock that resembles a “golden ghost” the day she was taken to jail for having too many unpaid tickets. By the time she got out of jail, other clients had added the face to the tree in front of the building.

Red, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, laughs as her friend pulls out a bullhorn while they sit near the entrance of the Street Youth Ministry basement on Dec 3, 2019. Alexander Thompson/Reporting Texas
Red, 28, said she has traveled through Austin six times over the past decade. A friend introduced her to the ministry three years ago, and since then she has utilized its services.
She participates in Girl’s Group, a peer support group that discusses topics such as toxic relationships and the difficulties that face women who live on the streets. If she hadn’t heard about the ministry, Red said, she would have died in Austin because she knew few people and didn’t know where to stay.
“I feel like we have a family, and that’s rare around here,” Red said. “Like we have our street family, but you can’t talk to your street family about certain things, you know, you’ve got to stay within the mindset of ‘I can survive.’”
Arthur also helped create the installation. He created a collection of rocks painted with single words of prayer like “love,” “pride,” and “joy.”

Halloween-themed prayer rocks that youth ministry client, Arthur, helped create, decorate the base of a tree outside the entrance to the Street Youth Ministry. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Arthur, 27, said he came to Austin four years ago with his former husband. When they divorced, he ended up on the streets. He said his “blood sister” told him Street Youth Ministry could help him, but he didn’t know if he would be accepted because of his sexual orientation. In other places he said he has felt out of place and unwelcome.

Street Youth Ministry client Arthur, whose nickname is Summer Rose, sings Carrie Underwood’s, “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” during the weekly talent night on Nov. 20, 2019. Arthur, said the ministry has come to feel like a family to him. Joshua Guenther/Reporting Texas
Earlier this year, he said he was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. Since the diagnosis, members of the ministry have prayed for him, Arthur said, and in return he has volunteered to prepare food, wash dishes and clean the space.
“It feels like I’m back at home with my own family,” Arthur said. “There’s no other place I would rather be than here. I don’t want to separate from the people that have taken care of me.”

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2F2AoNS

December 3, 2019

Christmas for SYM Clients


Merry Christmas!

   As the time to share that greeting rolls around each year, I think of the 3,000+ clients our ministry has served since we began in 2008. What kind of Christmases will they have?
   Thanks especially to social media these days, we know more of the answers. Some clients have excelled, and they’ve written us. A few lives ended tragically. Other clients intrigue us – they surface periodically to say “thanks” or share news, infusing us like the episodes of an old-fashioned serial, complete with cliffhanger endings.

   Such a continuing story this year was shared by a client whose street name was “Powder”:

   2012-13, off and on – Powder attended a few of our events back before we had our Drop-in Co-op, and he came to the 2013 Christmas party at All Saints Episcopal. He was using drugs at the time, and he ran around with friends using street names like Merce, Grinch and Bean.
   We hadn’t seen Powder since 2013, then he resurfaced three years later with a Facebook message:
   1 a.m., June 16, 2016 – “You probably won’t remember me. I hung around for a little while in 2012-2013.  I remember speaking to you multiple times at the Drop-in. 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 checked into his records and finally ran into an old photo that summoned memories. What I didn’t know was how deeply we had changed the direction of this young man’s journey. Powder and I had the following Facebook exchange, edited for space:
   Terry: “Well congratulations on all that! … I always love hearing from people who are doing well. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) to know that it’s a whole lot of people!
   Powder: “I was pretty nondescript and tried my best not to be noticed.  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.”
   Terry: “I know your face. I don’t yet recall your street name Powder. I’m really glad we were able to love on you a bit and that it helped. What made you decide to retire and get sober and all that?
   Powder: “I just got tired of living that way. I went to jail for a few months, then a psych ward, and then a rehab program. After that I just decided I wasn’t going to go back and live that way again, so I got into a halfway house and got a job and all that.”
   Terry: “Cool. I’m glad. I assume it’s better for you? Doesn’t have to be, but is faith a resource for you at this point?
   Powder: “I struggle with faith and spirituality. I have had a lot of things happen, seen things and whatnot, but it just doesn’t seem to “click.” I haven’t had the spiritual awakening or whatever you want to call it.”
   Terry: “I’d say be patient with yourself and stay in touch with that part of you that knows or wants there to be something bigger than us. It doesn’t hurt to hang around people who are further along than you are, but not to let them tell you what to think. Just to learn and see and feel how it is for them. I’ll be praying for you in that regard. Any other way I can be praying for you? Also, could I use your words to encourage others? I wouldn’t use your name unless you want me to. Recovery is a long road and it’s great for those who feel like it may never happen to them to hear from people like you who were around quite a while but are recovering!”
   Powder: “Yeah sure, I appreciate all your help, past and present.”
   Fast forward three years, four months. I heard from him again:
   11:08 p.m., Oct. 5, 2019 — “Touching base again, Terry. I just want to say again how helpful the Drop-in was to me at a time when I needed it the most. I’m still sober, haven’t touched drugs or booze since January 10, 2014. I’m still bouncing around, but I’m in much better condition than I was back then, physically and spiritually.
   “I have a skilled trade. I’m a butcher. I work full-time and I can’t help but feel like I’ve left that world behind. It’s for the best, but some of the happiest moments of my life happened on the Drag. I’ve noticed that it’s almost like a class graduating: people I knew ended up dead, in prison or clean, and a new generation came to replace our spots.
   “Now I’m sitting on the couch in a home that I ‘own’ and watching cable. I’m not in Missouri anymore. but that’s where I learned to butcher, in a family-owned shop that was looking for some help during deer season. I managed to leverage that into a union full-time job at a grocery store. I’ve tried to settle down a couple times and it just hasn’t worked out. I think I just enjoy being a rambler.
   “I’m still not sure where I stand on my beliefs. I go back and forth a lot. I’d like to settle down somewhere, That’s the big one. I want to continue this trend of “living a normal life” without being too boring. Maybe I just need to find a hobby. I’ll get back in touch with you again when I think about it.
   Terry: “How old are you now?”
   Powder: “I’m headed toward 27, I was 19-20 in Austin.”
   Terry: “You’re right on track. I find a lot of people who hit the road for whatever reason start settling things at about 26 or so.”
   Powder: “That’s nice to hear, honestly. I had a lot of people ask me when I was in high school  and “full of potential” what I wanted to do with my life, and when I would say “ I don’t know,” I’d get the same long and boring lecture about needing to do something important.
   “I wish someone would’ve told me, or I would have known that it’s totally OK to make $35,000 a year cutting meat and going fishing every day before work. I’m never gonna have a lot of anything, but I have enough of the stuff I want and a plan for the immediate future, which is to move someplace that has trout and moving water so I can learn how to fly fish.
   “I just wish I could’ve started on this path five years ago and not be struggling toward it now. I suppose you know what they say about wishing in one hand and doing something in the other. I just have to remember I’m not that old yet, and there’s still time. Pleasure to have met you, Terry.”

Read on… for the follow up story of Powder

https://streetyouth.blogspot.com/2019/12/defining-our-life-purpose.html  

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December 2, 2019

Defining our life purpose


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   Toward the end of
my “conversation” with Powder, I saw words that concerned me yet left me with
hope. He’s still “struggling,” he said, but “I’m still not that old yet, and
there’s still time.” In my final reply, I sought to leave some thoughts that
would carry him over to the next time we connected, or beyond. Here’s what I
wrote:
   “If I had heard
you say that “you don’t know” when you’re 18 or 19, I would’ve responded,
‘That’s OK. You’re not supposed to know yet.’ I think your life has purpose,
but that purpose is probably not defined by what you do to earn money or to
relax.

   “I think that
purpose is probably defined by the relationships you have in your life and what
you do with them: being kind, being patient, seeking peace, instilling hope,
loving others, etc. And I bet you still don’t know all the answers to that
question — and it’s still OK. I’m sorry for the angst and more along your
path, but I don’t even know that you started out on the wrong path. It led to
here, and it leads into the future. So perhaps it was the right one all along.”
   We likely have
this type of impact on our clients with our guidance counseling every day and
don’t yet know it. Our journeys in life are filled with people who matter to us
and people to whom we matter. Sometimes we don’t even know it. This Advent and
Christmas, enjoy the journey and enjoy the people around you. You never know
who you will be making a difference to!
   Thank you for
supporting SYM and being a part of making a difference!

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December 2, 2019

Christmas for SYM Clients


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Merry Christmas!

   As the time to
share that greeting rolls around each year, I think of the 3,000+ clients our
ministry has served since we began in 2008. What kind of Christmases will they
have?
   Thanks especially
to social media these days, we know more of the answers. Some clients have
excelled, and they’ve written us. A few lives ended tragically. Other clients
intrigue us – they surface periodically to say “thanks” or share news, infusing
us like the episodes of an old-fashioned serial, complete with cliffhanger
endings.

   Such a continuing
story this year was shared by a client whose street name was “Powder”:

   2012-13, off and
on
– Powder attended a few of our events
back before we had our Drop-in Co-op, and he came to the 2013 Christmas party
at All Saints Episcopal. He was using drugs at the time, and he ran around with
friends using street names like Merce, Grinch and Bean.
   We hadn’t seen
Powder since 2013, then he resurfaced three years later with a Facebook
message:
   1 a.m., June 16,
2016
– “You probably won’t remember me. I
hung around for a little while in 2012-2013.  I remember speaking to you
multiple times at the Drop-in. 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 checked into his
records and finally ran into an old photo that summoned memories. What I didn’t
know was how deeply we had changed the direction of this young man’s journey.
Powder and I had the following Facebook exchange, edited for space:
   Terry: “Well congratulations on all that! … I always love
hearing from people who are doing well. You’d be surprised (or maybe you
wouldn’t) to know that it’s a whole lot of people!
   Powder: “I was pretty nondescript and tried my best not to be
noticed.  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.”
   Terry: “I know your face. I don’t yet recall your street name
Powder. I’m really glad we were able to love on you a bit and that it helped.
What made you decide to retire and get sober and all that?
   Powder: “I just got tired of living that way. I went to jail for
a few months, then a psych ward, and then a rehab program. After that I just
decided I wasn’t going to go back and live that way again, so I got into a
halfway house and got a job and all that.”
   Terry: “Cool. I’m glad. I assume it’s better for you? Doesn’t
have to be, but is faith a resource for you at this point?
   Powder: “I struggle with faith and spirituality. I have had a lot
of things happen, seen things and whatnot, but it just doesn’t seem to
“click.” I haven’t had the spiritual awakening or whatever you want
to call it.”
   Terry: “I’d say be patient with yourself and stay in touch with
that part of you that knows or wants there to be something bigger than us. It
doesn’t hurt to hang around people who are further along than you are, but not
to let them tell you what to think. Just to learn and see and feel how it is
for them. I’ll be praying for you in that regard. Any other way I can be
praying for you? Also, could I use your words to encourage others? I wouldn’t
use your name unless you want me to. Recovery is a long road and it’s great for
those who feel like it may never happen to them to hear from people like you
who were around quite a while but are recovering!”
   Powder: “Yeah sure, I appreciate all your help, past and
present.”
   Fast forward three
years, four months. I heard from him again:
   11:08 p.m., Oct.
5, 2019
— “Touching base again, Terry. I just
want to say again how helpful the Drop-in was to me at a time when I needed it
the most. I’m still sober, haven’t touched drugs or booze since January 10,
2014. I’m still bouncing around, but I’m in much better condition than I was
back then, physically and spiritually.
   “I have a skilled
trade. I’m a butcher. I work full-time and I can’t help but feel like I’ve left
that world behind. It’s for the best, but some of the happiest moments of my
life happened on the Drag. I’ve noticed that it’s almost like a class
graduating: people I knew ended up dead, in prison or clean, and a new
generation came to replace our spots.
   “Now I’m sitting
on the couch in a home that I ‘own’ and watching cable. I’m not in Missouri
anymore. but that’s where I learned to butcher, in a family-owned shop that was
looking for some help during deer season. I managed to leverage that into a
union full-time job at a grocery store. I’ve tried to settle down a couple
times and it just hasn’t worked out. I think I just enjoy being a rambler.
   “I’m still not
sure where I stand on my beliefs. I go back and forth a lot. I’d like to settle
down somewhere, That’s the big one. I want to continue this trend of “living a
normal life” without being too boring. Maybe I just need to find a hobby. I’ll
get back in touch with you again when I think about it.
   Terry: “How old are you now?”
   Powder: “I’m headed toward 27, I was 19-20 in Austin.”
   Terry: “You’re right on track. I find a lot of people who hit
the road for whatever reason start settling things at about 26 or so.”
   Powder: “That’s nice to hear, honestly. I had a lot of people ask
me when I was in high school  and “full of potential” what I wanted to do
with my life, and when I would say “ I don’t know,” I’d get the same long and boring
lecture about needing to do something important.
   “I wish someone
would’ve told me, or I would have known that it’s totally OK to make $35,000 a
year cutting meat and going fishing every day before work. I’m never gonna have
a lot of anything, but I have enough of the stuff I want and a plan for the
immediate future, which is to move someplace that has trout and moving water so
I can learn how to fly fish.
   “I just wish I
could’ve started on this path five years ago and not be struggling toward it
now. I suppose you know what they say about wishing in one hand and doing
something in the other. I just have to remember I’m not that old yet, and
there’s still time. Pleasure to have met you, Terry.”

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September 25, 2019

Our Newest Hit: SYM Talent Night


Three times a year we re-invent ourselves at SYM by trying new activities that keep things fresh for our clients. You can imagine what a daunting task this can be, after 11 years! (It’s the reason our Drop-in Center is full of clients who are engaged and changing their lives.)

This past May I faced a dilemma. I didn’t have the ideas I wanted to form our summer schedule, but a staff member had brought forward one idea that I couldn’t quite put down: Talent Night.

I could imagine the risks: bad singing, lurid lyrics, rowdy behavior, arguments over style and preference. My head was swimming. Somehow, though, I couldn’t shake the idea, so we gave it a try. And when we try something, we stick to it until the end of the “semester” (in this case, summer). We know our clients thrive on this kind of consistency. Here’s how it went:

At the first Talent Night, our staff provided half the performances, but soon we figured out how to improve participation: stay open only as long as someone is performing. Give everyone who signs up one turn, plus an encore. When it’s over, that’s it.

Amazingly, more and more clients came and shared. We’ve had singing, lip syncing, dancing, original rap songs, poetry, guitar and piano playing. We’ve even had origami and a dog that sings. It adds up to this: every evening now, something magic occurs!

What I saw at one of our recent Talent Nights made my heart soar, and I want to share with you several of the performances that made that happen:


● One of the first acts was a dog that simply howls when he hears sirens. They wail, he starts and pretty soon, everyone howls along with him.

● A new client — who until recently had mostly avoided us — signed up to sing. Like some we serve, he’d had negative experiences with Christians early in his life and was convinced they hated him. But we love him and accept him just as he is. And he sang – oh my, did he sing! Not pop or angry rap. He sang “Faithfully,” by Journey in a stunning tenor voice. The magic started right then.

● The next clients to perform used lyrics everyone could see, and the crowd joined in. Talent Night stopped being about performing and started being about community.

● Next came a young lady who had been spitting mad at us the day before as she struggled with significant issues. We persevered with her, helping as we were able. Her song of choice wasn’t anti-establishment or a “woe is me — my life is terrible” number. It was “Hallelujah,” the standard written by Leonard Cohen. We were using our homespun system – a mic and TV sound bar – but about three lines into her performance, I turned it off. She didn’t need it! Her voice filled the room and the crowd, suddenly riveted, cheered with her. It was magic!


● Toward night’s end, a client we recognized as struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues appeared. He had rarely communicated with us, and he had seemed unable to focus or sit still. When he noticed we were giving performers candy as prizes, he wrote his name and the title of a rap song. To my surprise, he knew every word! He even did a second encore. The audience was impressed, and afterward when I told him I was so happy he came and sang, he replied, “You’re welcome.”

I love the job I get to do every day. It is such an honor and privilege to work for these young people. One way or another, they have been told they are throwaways, worthless and unwanted. They are NOT! They are so precious. And talented!

Thanks be to God we get to share time with them! And thank you for helping make it happen!

Terry

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September 8, 2019

Volunteer with us, and take home a smile!



This is Outbound Engine’s second year to volunteer with us! They are a tech company out of Austin that does automated marketing for small businesses.  

They raised more than $500 around the office, then used the money to buy nonperishables for our food box program!

They brought enough food to make 22 bags of delicious-ness!

When they dropped off the donations, they stayed to help us organize our blanket room, which was a mess!


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September 7, 2019

Our Volunteers Have Impact


Our volunteers have impact!

In-kind donations for the summer were $42,000 compared to $48,000 the year before. However, we’re in record territory for 2019 thanks go amazing in-kind donors who keep thinking of us when they see food or items we could use that are no longer wanted! We’ve received $130,000 in items so far this year!Over the summer, our volunteers contributed 1,000 hours. That’s a bit down compared to the summer before. But how does it all add to impact? We got to serve 59 new clients this summer (up from the previous summer). Our clients hung out with us 5,000 hours this summer (much bigger than last summer)! All of this amazing stuff lead to 253 goals achieved by our clients over the summer to change their lives! Thank you for being part of our team to keep this going!
Here’s a one-person volunteer job!
Before …
… and after
We are getting the Drop-in Center organized. One of our best volunteer organizers, Lilian Seidel, (shown at right) recently whipped our art room into shape! We have oodles of opportunities for one person!

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September 7, 2019

Our Volunteers Have Impact


Our volunteers have impact!

In-kind donations for the summer were $42,000 compared to $48,000 the year before. However, we’re in record territory for 2019 thanks go amazing in-kind donors who keep thinking of us when they see food or items we could use that are no longer wanted! We’ve received $130,000 in items so far this year!Over the summer, our volunteers contributed 1,000 hours. That’s a bit down compared to the summer before. But how does it all add to impact? We got to serve 59 new clients this summer (up from the previous summer). Our clients hung out with us 5,000 hours this summer (much bigger than last summer)! All of this amazing stuff lead to 253 goals achieved by our clients over the summer to change their lives! Thank you for being part of our team to keep this going!
Here’s a one-person volunteer job!
Before …
… and after
We are getting the Drop-in Center organized. One of our best volunteer organizers, Lilian Seidel, (shown at right) recently whipped our art room into shape! We have oodles of opportunities for one person!

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August 26, 2019

Alan Martinez – A Street Youth Volunteer Story



Alan Martinez grew up in Bulverde, a town of 4,630 located north of San Antonio. When he moved to Austin to attend UT, what he saw near the campus gave him pause.

“There were street youths all around,” he recalled, “and this was shocking coming from a small city with no people living on the street at all.” He decided to see how he could help, so he did what his generation has been taught to do – he Googled!

Up in the list came Street Youth Ministry. Alan enrolled as a volunteer, and the rest, as they say, is history. “He became the rare volunteer who is an essential part of who we are and who we want to be,” said SYM staffer Suzanne Zucca.

Alan immersed himself in the organization. He joined group activities involving clients, and he did routine chores many volunteers do around the Drop-in Center, including scrubbing an occasional toilet. He organized a volunteer appreciation night featuring a Christmas karaoke event, and he got everyone to sing!

Next, he went a step further. Acting on a suggestion from Terry, he founded an organization of UT students called “Friends of Street Youth” that took things to another level.

Friends of Street Youth recently conducted a successful clothing drive, launched a pen pal program to benefit the small number of street youth who are incarcerated, and held a panel discussion on ways UT students can help the ministry.

This didn’t happen all at once. Alan started slowly, and he acknowledged some trepidation. His success serves as encouragement for any volunteer questioning his or her involvement.

“I was a bit shy coming to a place [the Drop-in] where everyone there knew each other, since most of the street youth that drop by are regulars, “he said. He approached cautiously, asking basic questions. “The way the clients lit up every time they spoke completely calmed all my fears. I realized that most of them love to talk to anyone about anything, like most people, although they were much more honest.”

Because they are societal outcasts, he realized, they’re less reluctant to reveal their silly sides when meeting people for the first time. That made it easier for Alan to tear down his own walls and talk with them. “The advice I would give to others starting out is to ask them anything about their lives, since most have amazing stories which they’d love to share if you’d lend an ear.”

Alan noticed something else. “I love seeing how happy they are to receive things we take for granted,” he said, like the day he was handing out pancakes and saw “goofy smiles” coming back at him. “Afterwards … I’d grab a few pancakes and sit by them. I’d return the goofy smiles as they welcomed me, and we’d talk about things that probably didn’t matter but made us happy either way. Granted, while the pancakes were great, the best part was how they continued being happy throughout the entirety of our breakfast talk, all of us together, at that one moment.”

By the time Terry approached him, Alan said, “I had gotten to know quite a few street youths and was starting to open up. I wanted to spread everything I knew about their extraordinary talents and stories to the student population.”

He said he especially wanted to eliminate the stigma against street youth around campus, because those he spoke with told him they felt looked down on or simply ignored, and they were hurt by it.

“This hurt me immensely,” he said, “so, I started the org and invited some of my friends to join me. We’ve only started up last semester, but we have a steady population of about a dozen people and are getting ready to recruit more through summer freshman orientation!”

Alan gets excited as he describes the SYM staff he has become to know so well:

Of the leader: “Terry is amazing at speaking to anyone, no matter who they are, and initiating a meaningful conversation that pierces their hearts. The way he cares about all the youths really shows as he tries to engage others into activities, and he genuinely wants to know about everyone that enters SYM.”

Of Suzanne: “She is probably the drop-in’s unofficial mom, what with all of the effort she puts into cooking for the clients and making sure they’ve got everything they need.”

Of Darvin: “His calm kindness is expressed towards every single person that walks through the door, no matter the situation.”

Of Billy: “His outgoing personality makes volunteers and the street youth feel comfortable and able to open up.”

Of Portia and Tondra: “They are both such hard-workers; both work a lot behind the scenes organizing a lot of the drop-in to have a welcoming environment, which I admire heavily about them.”

The compliments are returned. “He is not afraid to put himself out on a limb in order to help the clients, the staff, or so many volunteers that he has encouraged to get involved with our organization,” Suzanne said. “Alan Martinez is a force of good in the world.”

“Because of his vulnerability about his own challenges, clients have found freedom for themselves through his example. He is relaxed, he is humorous, he is always kind, and always ready to do things he has never done before.”

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