Archive for May, 2012

May 30, 2012

Social Work and the Church — By Jordan Treuter


After I observed the work of Terry and the ministry he leads, I asked if he wasn’t a social worker in addition to a missionary. Terry replied, “I think social work and the church need to reconcile their differences and get married.”

 

“I can’t solve poverty. Jesus made it really clear; if I tried, I’d fail,” Terry says as he holdsa tattered blue bag filled with military and Doc Martin boots. They will be given out in ministry today.

 

It would be a tall task for Terry to solve poverty, let alone homelessness, even inAustin alone. The University of Texas School of Social Work estimates that Austinis home to at least 4,000 homeless, from a wide assortment of backgrounds involving varied disorders and ailments. 

 

Most of their problems stem from a lack of connectedness, according to Rebecca’s Community, an organization that raises awareness for the homeless, specifically in Australia, but with connections to the United States.

 

Without connectedness “specifically to family and friends”people lack theresources and community to provide support and assistance necessary to keep them off the streets. Combine this with eroding work opportunities and a decline in public assistance since 2000, according to National Coalition for the Homeless, and many people wind up living on the streets.

 

The Conference of Mayors recently released a report saying that in every state more than minimum wage was necessary to afford a one or two bedroom apartment that was decent, safe, sanitary and affixed with basic amenities. To afford adequate housing, people would need to make $9.50 per hour.

 

All this is occurring while the price of housing continues to increase.  Since 2000, the price of a one or two bedroom apartment has risen by 43 percent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. However,  minimum wage has only increased by 29 percent.

 

Additionally,  homeless youth have a difficult time finding a job. In 2007, a survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that only 13 percent of street youth had a job.

 

But the problems aren’t only housing and job related. Fifty percent of homelessness comes as the result of domestic violence and 63 percent of homeless women have experienced domestic violence during their adult lives. While sixteen percent of homeless people suffer from severe or persistent mental illness, according to the U.S.Conference of Mayors.

 

Homeless people also face the very real threat of starting or relapsing into alcohol and drug addiction.  Thirty-eight percent of homeless people reported alcohol dependency and 26 percent reported drug abuse, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.

 

But Terry’s ultimate goal isn’t to fix these problems. He does want to see the youth come off the street, but more importantly he wants to see them enter into a relationship with Jesus. He also recognizes that if he started to try to answer these needs,he would be placed in a difficult spot.

 

“Boundaries are important. If I just gave them what they wanted, they would chew me up and spit me out,” he says about the goods he hands out. “It’s important to borrow and blend as many good social work practices as possible.” SYM bases its work on sound and strong theories from social work that seem to work with our clients. We’ve studied and applied change theory and processes, strengths based brief therapy, harm reduction, narrative therapy, crisis intervention, formation of groups for therapy, detachment and support, drug counseling, mental health assessment, suicide assessment, trauma informed care, and more. It only makes sense. And we teach these concept to our interns to help prepare them to lead poverty-informed urban ministries in the future. We believe “this is where it’s at!”

 

Do you have toughts on Social work and the Church?

 

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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May 25, 2012

How We Give Things Away


At every event, we train our volunteers to be successful. The first time you volunteer, you may feel a little overwhelmed and underused, but that’s on purpose. (Sorry!) It allows you to observe more and do a 

little less the first time. 

 

One thing we teach all our volunteers to do is avoid saying “Do you want this?” or “Do you need this?” Instead we train all our volunteers to state gently, “I have some [whatever] and you can have one if it would 

help.” It’s an awkward sentence and takes some practice. 

 

So why do we use it? We don’t know what our clients want or need today. It might feel arrogant if we assume they need food or socks or whatever. Maybe they just spent their last dollars on a great meal. “Do 

you want a sandwich?” might seem condescending to them and even a put down. 

 

Secondly, being vulnerable is difficult. Say I do need socks, and you come up with a bag full and say, “Do you need socks?” To me, it might seem that I have to admit that I need them before I can get them. It might 

seem like you’re holding that over me. By asking them if it would help, they get all the power. We want to avoid shame, guilt and power plays in the ministry, and we know that “I have a bag of socks and you can have a pair if it would help” works well! 

 

Finally, we have street tested this phrase on lots of people over the years. One difficult group to work with is the emotionally active. Whether because they are drunk, high, or simply emotionally agitated, 

questions about “do you want?” or “do you need?” further excites this group. An offer of help has proven to be calming and even creates space to talk about other things. Clients may say,  “No that wouldn’t help. But you know what would. . .”  This opens the door to a relationship and a discussion of something much more important than socks. 

 

So, when you come out with us, you’ll learn a lot of stuff and get a chance to put this to the test! Know that your presence in ministry matters. It’s not just a sandwich or a pair of socks to our clients. Your presence shows them that someone cares. Your presence surprises them. Many have come to expect little of the church and seeing people put faith into action gets their attention. Finally, we always give through relationship, so you are bringing something they value… you. 

Hard to believe? 

 

“I would rather someone look me in the face and say, ‘No’ than to ignore me when I ask for spare change.” I would rather someone stop, take off their headphones, smile and simply say,  “Hi, than give me anything.” 

These are statements that we hear all the time from street youth. So when you come down to help us, you are bringing something that the street youth treasure more than anything in our bags of goodies. YOU! 

 

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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Volunteer or donate (tax deductible) online
Arrange a meeting with me: tungle.me/terrycole

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May 21, 2012

Our Bus Driver’s Viewpoint


I like to ask people questions about the ministry after they volunteer. We have had a bus driver each evening for about 10 weeks,. After we finished his last evening for a while, I asked our bus driver about his experience.  He is from Eastern Europe and comes from quite a different culture.

 

“What do you like about driving?”  I asked. He said,”I am tired at the end of my day but I like returning a favor to the church.” I told him that I liked he was kind, patient, and strong with the street youths.   I notice how they changed the subject and he changed it back.  

 

I asked, “What surprises you?”  He said,  “I cannot understand why they leave their families. We live together in my country. Even here in this country, many generations live together in my community.” I had the opportunity to explain that 40% of our clients simply didn’t have a home at all or at least one judged to be fit by our government. They came from foster care, juvenile detention, or an orphanage. Another 40% (roughly split evenly between this first group and those who come from a more traditional home) with at least one stable parent, are experiencing mental health issues or challenges. So these two factors helped explain the circumstances affecting about 6 of 10 clients. The remainder of the clients have different stories. Some involved personal discovery. Some stories involved big differences in values (drugs, sex, religion, legal, and behavior) between youth and those who were able to provide a home.  Some clients experienced issues with poverty, i.e. the family or the youth just did not think it was viable to depend on the family anymore. Other factors entailed changes in the makeup of the family that the street youth just could not or did not want to deal with.

 

I asked, “What do you not like?”  He replied,  “I don’t like how they refuse to dress properly. How they don’t act properly. How they are by themselves and set apart.”   I had the opportunity to explain that most of our clients choose to be set apart because they have been so hurt. They dress differently partly out of preference but also it works for them… people leave them alone. The bus driver interrupted me.   “Ah… I learned something. I always thought they just wanted to be dirty, smelly and odd looking. But now I see… they do this to keep other people away from them! I learned something tonight!”

 

P.S. We always need people with a Class C CDL to drive our bus. Contact us to add your name to our driver list. We also need errand runners with cars all the time. Let us know if you’d be willing to receive an email when we need errands run for the ministry!

 

“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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May 16, 2012

Recovery


 

Success in this business means not seeing clients anymore. But that doesn’t mean we don’t hear from them! Facebook and email allows us to stay in contact with lots of people all over the country.

 

One street youth who once was a client many years ago has been keeping me posted on progress in his life. First it was moving away to pursue rock hunting. Then it was keeping a property in the country for the owners. Then it was working in Dallas. And along the way, his faith and relationship with Jesus has grown. He has looked for church connections and community ties. And now something amazing is happening.

 

For years he has wanted to turn in difficulties and challenges into a way to help others. Now he’s going to get the chance. He put together a business plan for a camp for street youth. He put together the strategy and rules for living together. He put together the teaching plan for helping street youth find stability. He began to tell others about his plan. It was slow going over months and months. But then something wonderful happened. God moved into the plan.

 

He now has property donated in Tennessee with cabins, and more being built at cost. And he has raised almost all the funding. He will gather up a first group of street youth to go help build the place. And a church is one of the first new buildings being built!

 

As I spoke with him, we pondered all the difficulties ahead and how amazing it is that God is blessing this activity to move so fast. And I wanted him to know that we don’t claim his success. And his response: “I don’t claim it either. It’s God. It’s Jesus, man. It all depends on Him!”

 

If you want to read more about this, check out their new Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Camp-Iro-Youth-Sanctuary/202397619863555

 

We look forward to telling more recovering street youth stories. [Please mail them to us at terry@streetyouthministry.org.] We’ll publish what we can. They are inspiring and uplifting. And they demonstrate how much God gifts these young people and what can happen when they bring those activated gifts into the Kingdom!


“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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Become a fan on Facebook!
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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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May 12, 2012

Light Bulb Moment


Help is not always simple.

 

One of our board members had a light bulb moment the other day. In something fairly unrelated to Street Youth Ministry, he found himself face to face with a 26 year old homeless youth. It was an informal church setting. After worship, the board member invited the youth to go eat out. During dinner, he listened to the young man describe the multiple steps that led to street-dependency: losing support of family, losing job, losing apartment, losing car, losing all belongs, losing his ID, etc. It’s a slow slide that doesn’t happen overnight.

 

Then the board member listened to the young man (who doesn’t currently receive SYM services) describe what his life is like now. He still wants all the things he lost… including a job. But now in order to survive, he spends all his time in lines or moving wherever the next line is. For food, for shelter, for bus passes, for help with ID, for job training or referrals. There isn’t any time or energy left over. The young man feels so hopeless.

 

The light bulb moment for the board member came when he saw that help isn’t always help. It’s not so simple. I like to say, “it took a hundred steps to get into this situation and it might take a hundred to get out, but I know you can do it! And it matters!”

 

There are many ways you can help.  Check out our web site: www.StreetYouthMinistry.org


 

“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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May 8, 2012

Enablement and Status Quo Maintenance


Often we hear concerns voiced by supporters, “Are we enabling their lifestyle? Is it too easy?” And it’s a valid question, but I think it’s one that doesn’t factor in the high cost of time and energy requires to receive pretty much all safety net services. SYM struggles and constantly asks if we are enabling street youth. We don’t want to do that and we are constantly on guard.

 

But we also ask ourselves a harder question: “Are we keeping the street youth down by our own actions?” Do we require them to do too much for safety net services? Are we keeping them from doing things that would be better for them? Do they have enough time and energy left over to act on what we teach them and ask them to do? This becomes very difficult sometimes.

 

We don’t give away bus passes, but if we did, we’d want to do it in such a way that it honors the street youth’s time and energy. A tempting option might be to give away a 24 hour bus pass. But let’s think about that. A bus trip in Austin in an hour average, maybe two with transfer. Then an hour or so of our event. And then back to where they live (greenbelts, outskirts, etc.). So that’s 3 to 5 hours for one bus pass with a value of $3. That’s not a very good hourly wage. And it doesn’t leave a lot of time to do other things to improve their life. So we’d explore other options as well: giving out bus passes for specific purposes, allowing youth to receive a weekly bus pass in exchange for some commitment or performance. Each of these has problems, too, but we’d explore them all prior to starting the endeavor. This hypothetical situation demonstrates how difficult it can be to make sure we’re really doing good and not maintaining the status quo… keeping the street youth down. 

 

A less complex and probably more controversial instance of this question is, “Do we require them to listen to a sermon to get fed?” At SYM, the answer is an emphatic NO! We share food first. Then we invite them to stick around for our activities. Not everyone does. But over time, many do.

 

We love to see our clients, but anytime they say they have something else to do we congratulate them. And we say we’ll love to see them when they have time. And often, success means not seeing your client at all! We’d love to put ourselves out of business!

 

“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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May 5, 2012

Feeling Those Feelings


He needs time to heal and rest.  I got a phone call from a traveler. He had been jailed for riding trains for at least a month. While he was in jail, his dog had been put down by authorities. He depends on the train, but he’s afraid to ride it. He depends on the street but he wants to go home. I encouraged him to come see me. He hitch-hiked in to avoid the train.

 

When he got here, he was angry at first. He hoped I would simply become his bank account and send him by train or plane wherever he wanted to go. Once we worked through that, he was very open and contemplative. He attended services with us. He began to talk. But even as we began to connect, he began to feel the need to leave… to travel.

 

He has used drugs about half his life. He doesn’t know why. However, he hasn’t been on drugs for the past few months. He shared, “I am starting to feel feelings. And I don’t like them.” He’s depressed. I asked if he knew why… “No.” I asked about his childhood. “It was crappy. I didn’t know it at the time, but it makes me very sad now. I don’t want to think about it.”

 

While he told me these things, his bodily language became visibly withdrawn. He was literally inching away. I called him back and we talked more. “I suggested to him, “What if you gave yourself some time to heal from this latest trauma with the he train and losing your dog? Time to heal and rest would be good, right?” He agreed. He added that he has a relative where he could go and do that… a place where he wouldn’t be allowed to use drugs and a place that would be safe for him. We agreed that this sounded wonderful. We talked about what that would be like. “You’d probably want to let yourself feel these feelings that made you sad. And then maybe you’d want to share them with someone safe… a counselor, a friend, a pastor, … a confident. Then maybe you could let go of them. If you keep pushing them down, you’re just going to keep carrying them with you. Maybe it’s time to stop traveling for a while and deal with them.” He agreed, but was scared.

 

That evening he left for a train spot… a place to jump on a train. He wasn’t sure whether he would be going to his relatives house (one direction) or to a place to join some other travelers who had messaged him on FaceBook (another direction). I pray for his safety… physical and emotional. I pray he finds a safe place to process his baggage so he’ll be lighter for the road. I’m thankful for our relationship and pray that it continues. 

 

Pray with us for the street youth.

“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

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May 1, 2012

Outstanding Prayer Concerns


 

 

Today something wonderful happened in prayer time. We went through our usual prayer concert  (http://streetyouth.blogspot.com/2012/02/good-prayer-time.html). And when we got to the part about praying for the Drag community, people started with the usual things. We happily pray for students to be more generous. But one street youth objected and said it was selfish. Another chimed in that students are in debt and many have less than the street youth in terms of money. They all quickly agreed that they would rather have people look up and smile. Take off their earphones and say, “Hi!” than give money. That led to a discussion about how stressful college life can be. And this led to an aha moment for the street youth!

 

They could begin the change. This is finals week at UT. They agreed to look for students heading to campus and wish them, “Good luck on your tests!” And they agreed to look for students on the way back and ask, “How did it go?” They agreed to offer “Hi! My name is Mike! What’s your’s” to more people. They agreed to give smiles and stop what they are doing to see the students. They agree to stop labeling and stereotyping.

 

So today’s prayer, is that a movement of kindness will start today and it begin with the street youth!

 

 

How can you help in this movement of kindness?

“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

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