Project Reaching Out

Covenant Presbyterian Church recently had a Day of Service. On this day, between 175 and 200 people went out on Saturday and gave their day to service. One of the groups came to Street Youth Ministry for Project Reaching Out. It’s a day of service that pairs volunteers with street youth. The common purpose is to bring community healing to an area of our city that needs it. This project focused on 12 blocks of West Campus, or “the Drag.” This area sees 100,000’s of people in foot and auto traffic weekly. The ambulance comes at least daily for medical emergencies including heart attacks, overdoses, and occasional violence. Several people die each year in this area from exposure or overdose or accident or murder. Businesses, students, residents, teachers, and street youth vie to call this area home, each with their own needs and concerns. This is an area needing love!

On this day, we focused on cleaning up trash. Almost 400 pounds of trash was picked up by about 25 volunteers and street youth. But more importantly, they talked all the while with one another. And they talked about issues in the area. They discovered commonalities and they discovered differences. Some found comfortable conversations and shared experiences, and some were very uncomfortable because of the huge differences. But everyone learned that day.

I asked participants to tell me what they noticed about the day. Here are some answer. The best is for last so keep reading:

“I found out that me and my street youth friend are both from Houston. That’s cool”

“I found out how they ride trains all over the country. Frankly, I’d love to try that. It sounds wonderful.”

“I found out how they feel when they ask for spare change. I will smile next time because it hurts to feel invisible.”

“I am really amazed at how articulate and funny my street youth guide is.”

“It is so cool that you volunteers came out here to help clean up all this mess. We try to clean up after ourselves, but not everyone does. Thank you!”

And now, the biggest observation of the day from my eyes, having done this project several times. If your church group or civic group wants to do Project Reaching Out, contact me at Bridges under 24th and 29th street are in desperate need of cleaning the street youth say.

Volunteer: “I was picking up trash around a dumpster when I all of a sudden realized that someone has been sleeping here. The cardboard was laid out just so and was crumpled where someone had slept. I felt so sad. This person has no home, sleeps here between the smelly trash cans with the bugs and rats.”

Street Youth: “That is really sad. This person sleeps alone. We don’t do that. We stay together in groups and take care of each other. I’m sad for this person because they are so alone.”

Wow! Both sides see truth here. How many people in beautiful houses are so alone? How many homeless are blessed and rich because of their community and togetherness? What will it be like when we combine and become a single community: house and street dependent together. We may always have the poor, but we can bond with them and enjoy each others company, share each other’s dreams, and lift one another up. Amen.


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