May 26, 2009
This blog is dedicated to a friend of mine from the street. He has done an amazing thing. I think it needs to be shared.
“Curt” arrived in Austin about a month ago. He’s a laborer and came to Austin because he was promised a job. He used his last dollars to get here and rent a motel room. When he spoke with the builder, he discovered that the job had been slowed down. He wouldn’t have a job for about a month.
Curt was faced with living on the street. He is older, but he chose to live among the street youth of Austin. He got to know them, was accepted into their community, and simply got along splendidly. Curt doesn’t drink or do drugs, so this was interesting to everyone. He is also a believer, and this piqued some kids interest. Curt was always respective and thank for the help he got. When I needed volunteers for Project Reaching Out, he was delighted to pitch in.
Three weeks went by with no job. Curt was still hanging out on the street but had remained out of trouble. The builder called him and the job was ready to go!
I didn’t expect to see Curt again, but I met him this past weekend. He’s working and got his first paycheck. He’s sharing an apartment now. So what was he doing on the drag? He’s taking the kids he got to know, one by one, to dinner! Now that’s stepping out! Curt has only his paycheck. He’s living month to month, but he’s giving back to those who helped him get through.
I think everyone should know about Curt. A person who had an episode of homelessness but is getting back on his feet. A person who resisted the urge of temptation of drugs and booze. A person who’s faith remains strong to them on the street. A person who depended on handouts but only for three weeks. And now a person who is giving back from his very meager wages.
Truly, Curt is making a sacrifice for his neighbors. An inspiration to us all!
May 23, 2009
Austinites and homeless youth volunteer together
It was an unusual sight last Sunday afternoon: homeless teenagers in ragged clothes and members of Austin churches strolling down Guadalupe Street together, holding trash bags, picking up trash with their rubber gloved hands.
What’s going on? Community healing. At least that was the aim of organizer Terry Cole, a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, who last year left a high-tech career to start Street Youth Ministry, which provides resources and spiritual care to Austin’s street-dependent youth.
Cole, who is commissioned through Covenant, organized the Reaching Out event to bridge the gap between the street youth population and the rest of the community, because he says there is animosity on both sides.“It’s hard to hate somebody when you get to know them,” Cole said.“I think the event was a big success. I thought that an event where the street kids could volunteer alongside others would be win-win. We chose to clean up the area around the Drag because that is where many of the kids hang out, and there is a lot of friction between the business owners and the kids,” he said.
More than a dozen church volunteers and about eight homeless youth showed up for this first event, which was sponsored by members of Pedernales River Fellowship Church, who provided supplies, food and drinks for the volunteers. Together they cleaned up 350 pounds of trash from alleys, hangout places and streets in the west campus area near the University, Guadalupe businesses, and downtown churches.
Cole hopes to repeat this event monthly, with different groups or churches sponsoring. Keep Austin Beautiful also provided tools and supplies.
“Before we started, there was some apprehension on both sides,” said Martha Cole, Terry’s wife. “The church volunteers didn’t know what to expect, and the street kids were a bit leary, too. Many of them just watched from the sidelines. But for those that got involved, I think it was a great experience. It was interesting to see everyone interacting.”
Cole’s aim for Street Youth Ministry is to see transformed lives. Through partnering with Lifeworks, a non-profit organization that provides street outreach, and also a missionary organization called Help for All Nations, Cole ministers to about 60-70 youth per week, many of whom are former foster-care recipients.
For more information about Street Youth Ministries, or to sign up to sponsor a Reaching Out event, go to StreetYouth.Blogspot.com.
May 15, 2009
I want to pass on some really cool information. I had absolutely nothing to do with what I’m going to tell you, except that I was one of the stabilizing adults around these kids. They have done this on their own!
I know a group of kids who have done some very surprising and remarkable. They have formed a non-profit and are raising money to benefit others! They are transferring their street skills to the running of a non-profit. It’s quite amazing!
They have gotten crummy jobs in the past at calls centers and pushed just about anything for a buck. They have stood on the sidewalk and gotten people to sign petitions for a buck. They have begged for money to buy cigarettes and booze. But now they are their own boss and doing the fund raising and asking.
Suspicious, you say? Me, too. So I checked into it more. They have a real state corporation for this. They have learned enough law to run the corporation by requirements. They have real charities that they support. They know what their overhead is. And I’ll tell you up front, that 30% of what they raise is used to pay themselves a salary. That might be sort of high sounding, but check out your own favorite charity. They often spend much more than that on fund raising. Certainly if they farm out calling and sending letters, it would be higher I believe.
They also have volunteer opportunities (car washes), items to buy (local business coupons for free items), and take straight donations.
Anyway, I think it’s great cause to celebrate these bad boys gone good. Some of them had business careers which ran into trouble with the law (i.e., the activity was allegedly illegal). Now they transfer these skills to something else. They are there own bosses now. They wear suits and ties. They are polite and realize that to make money they must work. To be respected they must respect their potential donors.
May 6, 2009
I recently spoke with “Jack” at the ministry trailer of Cream and Sugar. I’ve seen Jack around before but not lately. After some pleasant small talk, Jack told me that he had lost his job lately. It seems it was his own fault, and he accepts responsibility for this. However, it means that in about two weeks he will get kicked out of his apartment for not paying the rent.
Jack has been on the street before. So I figured that might not be a big deal to him. However, it is. Jack doesn’t want to be on the street again. He asked for some help to make sure he’s working as hard as possible to find a new job so he won’t be on the streets. I certainly offered him some help in the following ways:
- Regular check-in with me on how many applications he has submitted since we last met
- Making a resume together
- Brushing up on his interview skills using questions common in interviews
- Discussing the companies and jobs he looking for to find additional avenues of work.
Jack liked these ideas a lot. He said he has some problem getting going every morning. If he doesn’t get going soon enough, he finds that he wastes the rest of the day. Who doesn’t feel this? So I gave Jack a wrist watch with alarms on it. He had depended on a phone in the past but it got broken. He was very happy. I hope the watch will serve as a symbol that he’s looking for work and staying off the street.
I also challenged Jack in one more way. Jack was raised as a Catholic. He has turned to the Bible in times of trouble in the past. I challenged him to be turning to the Bible on a daily basis now, before the trouble comes. He liked the idea, but I’m not sure he had the means to do it. I’ll follow-up more on that next time I see him.
I asked Jack why he doesn’t want to be on the street again. (Several of his friends stated outright that they don’t mind being on the street.) Jack said he doesn’t like the way people look at you and judge you. He doesn’t like getting trapped by the booze and the drugs. It just doesn’t work for him anymore. Praise the Lord for this wisdom revealed to Jack! Now let us pray for Jack to discover the wisdom found in Proverbs (and throughout the Bible) of working diligently with your talents and gifts to be fruitful and prosperous — not for the sake of comfort but for the sake of the Kingdom and glory of God!