Archive for August, 2011

August 23, 2011

Sexual Abuse and the Street


I am asked frequently about sexual abuse in the shaping of homeless street youth's lives. It is a certainly a component that is very present in the lives of many clients. Its effects may be very visible  or they may be lurking beneath the surface in maladapted behaviors. Or they may be very hidden, tucked far from reach. By the time a youth gets to me, they almost all report physical abuse and violence and often sexual abuse. But the abuse often comes on the street. I believe sexual abuse is both a cause of street-dependency in some cases and a by-product of street-dependency in many cases.

Young sexual abuse victims often need to be in a relationship with someone at all times. Their attachment model is different than a young adult who didn't experience abuse. And young sexual abuse victims often numb themselves with drugs and alcohol, either knowingly or sub-consciously. But with help and maturation (the adult brain doesn't fully mature until age 26, not even accounting for any delayed development factors), they can improve.

I don't often go into the sexual abuse backgrounds of clients. I learn to identify them by behaviors and focus on moving them forward with strengths-based solution focused methods. The street is not usually a safe place from which to dissect their past and confront the terrible reality of sexual abuse. My goal is normally to help them become more stable and begin moving forward, believing they will come to a safer and more stable place in the future where they can better deal with their past.

Several clients have a poor history of selecting boyfriends and girlfriends, of bringing children into the world who need foster care, and of generally having maladapted coping skills to navigate the world. I work with them as they are and am privileged to get to know their strengths and gifts. They are highly troubled young people, but they do improve.

One client was discussing with me how she no longer sees her body as something she can simply give away for comfort or protection from a boy. She is learning to be single. It's hard because she feels unsafe and exposed. But she's proud to be single right now.

Another client told me how she's learning not to use her monthly income to buy favors from friends. She's seeing that these aren't all real friends. Some of them just use her to get stuff. She's proud to be saving money for a down payment on an apartment.

Another client went through a crisis where she had to face a recent violent sexual incident. She had to tell her boyfriend (a source of support) what she needed from him. She was unsure she could do that, but she's proud to have used her voice to better cope with the situation and to improve her relationship with her boyfriend.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
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August 15, 2011

Adventures of an Intern!


Hannah filed this as her final blog for the summer. We loved having Hannah with us and will miss her. The clients bonded with her easily and will miss her, too! Note that we still have one opening for the fall and 3 for the spring!

Here's what she wrote to share at the end of her internship:

HOLY COW! Where has this summer gone? I cannot believe that its already August and I will be going back home to Missouri in 2 DAYS! WHAT?! That means I have to go back to doing homework in roughly two weeks! Yikes! No way is that possible!…Right?

Many people have asked me, including the street kids, “What have you gotten out of this summer?” “What did you gain from us, and what have you done?” When this was asked of me a couple weeks ago by one of our clients, it really took me back. What have I gotten out of this summer? What have the street youth of Austin Texas taught me? So then that forced some much needed processing and evaluating for myself.

If I had to describe my experience this summer with one word it would be, AMAZING. I’m going to be cheesy for a second: Dictionary.com defines the word amazing as,

“To overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly. To cause a amazement, a new art show that delights and amazes. Astound, dumfound, stun, flabbergast or to see surprise”. Yep! This defines my summer 2011 with Street Youth Ministry. I was overwhelmed with surprise when I saw the bond that our clients have with one another and how quickly that was extended to me. I was in sudden wonder many times in thinking and dreaming with clients about the future. I continued to astonish greatly at how much our clients respect Terry and are so receptive of what God brings to them through him. Everyday was like it could have been an “art show that delights and amazes”, no day was the same as the day before. God also continued to “astound, dumbfound, flabbergast and surprise” me with His overwhelming, mighty LOVE for the poor.

One of my main prayers for this summer was that I would see these kids as Jesus sees them and to love them the way that He loves them. Jesus sees them and loves them where they are, not where they could be or who they could be. He created them, and they are beautiful, funny, real, tell you how it is, creative, inventive, down to earth creations of the Creator.

I have learned a tremendous amount from Terry, the street youth, all the volunteers, and so many others within this great city. Terry told me today right before departing that, “There will never be a summer like this one” and that, “This was a season, a great season in our lives but its over, and another one is about to come”. Both of these statements really stuck with me. No, there will never be another summer like this one at all! I do not regret one thing either. And this has been a fantastic season! I am sad to see it come to an end, I don’t want to leave these kids and go back to mounds of homework! That is my next season however and I cannot wait to see how God acts in it!

MISSOURI…..BE PREPARED, HERE I COME….AMAZED!


Hannah


"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

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August 6, 2011

Caring for Others


We recently concluded a series of service projects for adults, high school and middle school students this summer. We focus on making sure that each service project benefits our street youth in some tangible way as well as making subjective benefits available. Tangible benefits include receiving food, clothing, cold water, refillable water bottles and other supplies. Supplies are passed out by service project volunteers and even partially provided by the service project organizers. In-kind donors supply a majority the supplies distributed. Subjective benefits to the street youth include having fun talking with the volunteers, seeing volunteers care for the neighborhood by picking up trash, and prayer.

We also put a great deal of energy into making sure each of our volunteer participants is challenged to change during the service project. We provide age appropriate education about homelessness and, in particular, about our targeted street youth. We aim to see the volunteers change their viewpoint from knowing very little except popular homeless media information to seeing the group as similar to themselves in many way. And then we seek to complete the transformation by helping our participants to see the street youth as wonderful individuals with cool strengths and gifts of their own. We answer questions in terms they can understand, relating the subject to their own experiences and lives.

This summer, we provided 193 hours of community education to groups of volunteers in our service projects. This is an almost overwhelming undertaking, but we know it is important. Each participant gets a chance to answer questions about what they liked and what they learned. The quotes are very rewarding:

  • I found out that homeless street youth are really neat people.
  • I don't like that they have to live this way but they are really cool people.
  • I will be less judgmental in future. I now know there are no easy answers for these people.

And the street youth are changed too. They often modify their behavior when guests arrive. They tone down their language and discussion topics to PG when appropriate. And we don't ask them for this. It's purely voluntary on their part. The sense of rising self-expectation is a good one for them. The consider the contrast between the Christian volunteers serving them and the church as they imagine it or even have experienced it in the past. It leads to a more open mind for the street youth.

One street youth came to me after a visit by middle schoolers (8th graders accompanied by many sponsors and pastor). He was very interested in protecting their innocence. He said, "Really? Do their parents know what they are learning? What they may see? I can't control everyone down here, you know. Their innocence at this age is a precious thing." I replied, "Thank you for your concern for them. Yes, we explain what they may be in for. And we don't explain every detail of everything they see and hear. We give age appropriate answer." And I explained that the main goal is to help all our volunteers understand more about their own compassion. I continued, "We aren't running a zoo. You're aren't on display. A big part of this is about them really. Giving them an opportunity to grow so that they can change the world for the better. So they can discover who they are." 

At one service project, I told the middle school volunteers about the above conversation. They were very touched and told me to explain to the youth, "We want to be here. We want to see our faith become more real. We are going home different people."

I understand the street youth's concern. And SYM struggles hard with the balance of ministry, education, and service. We take "helping without hurting" seriously. We wrestle constantly to make sure we aren't enable our clients, trying to fix them, or simply trying to become rescuers to make ourselves better. We affirm that we want to have one and only one aim… to know, love and serve our street youth clients so they may come to know Christ. Jesus will fix. Jesus is the rescuer. And he has given each of our clients wonderful gifts and strengths, and waits faithfully until the day street youth can turn to Him and begin to use those God-given talents and abilities to further His Kingdom.

— Terry

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
Who We Serve   What We Do   Get Involved  Support Us   News  Publications  Ministry Needs   Speaking   Service Projects   Sign-up


Become a fan on Facebook!
Mobile? No problem: m.StreetYouthMinistry.org.
I'm a notary for benefit of clients and supporters. Ph: (512) 553-3796
Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

Follow SYM: Facebook LinkedIn Blog RSS Twitter Plaxo Etsy Etsy Blogger Google Buzz Tungle.me YouTube Google Plus