Archive for ‘quarterly newsletter’

November 30, 2016

Christmas Letter

Children and babies. Christmas revolves around them. Once a baby was born in Bethlehem, but there was no room for Him. Things have changed — or have they?

In our 2015 annual report we wrote that we had noticed horrible miscarriage and infant death rates among the homeless young women we serve on Guadalupe Street. The viable birth rate was very low. It broke our hearts – so, we made trying to change it a target.

First we raised awareness. Our clients’ love for life helps them survive on the street, but it also makes them less averse to getting pregnant. So we lovingly focused on 2015 as the year we would raise that survival rate. We gave our young women and couples a measurable objective: count the number of months their pregnancies were spent mainly on the street. The number started at zero for everyone. We helped them take action to keep that number low. They responded well.

One young lady, “Trudy,” became pregnant while homeless and started down a path we’d seen many times before: get a job, stay on the streets until the baby was born, then get an apartment with the baby’s dad. As she participated in our prayer times, Bible studies and hangouts, she began to see things differently. Trudy agreed to move back home with her mother, an act that rekindled a difficult adult relationship. She focused, however, on getting ready for the baby. Trudy got a job. She applied to programs to help her with housing. Finally, in her sixth month of pregnancy, with a “score” of only one of those months spent pregnant on the street, Trudy moved into her own apartment!

Several of our pregnant clients followed this model and got their unborn children off the streets. When their babies arrive, there will be room and love for them!

It wasn’t just the street youth having children who engaged with us. We were overjoyed to see all of our clients, not just those pregnant, engage with us to start a culture change. We impress upon the street youth we serve that to continue to live on the streets while pregnant is just too dangerous for the unborn children.

This is one story of many as we pursue our mission to know, love and serve street-dependent youth. Next year that mission will grow, and it will be a challenge, as we occupy a new building, take over the vital services that have always been provided there, and continue to adapt to a growing Austin urban landscape.

We are blessed to serve these young people. They are children in some ways, adults in others. How we treat these children says a lot about our world. Is there room for them today? Have things changed since Bethlehem? I am pleased to say that we welcome street youth with open arms. We encourage them to expect better for themselves.

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September 21, 2016

It’s never too early or late to dream

In seeking an entry-level job,
it’s never too early to dream …
Supporters say, “Why don’t they just get a job?” Clients say, “I just need a job!” Indeed, getting a job is their number one way off the streets, but getting the job isn’t really the issue. In our efforts to help our clients, we discovered three surprises about street youth and employment.
Surprise #1: most of our clients can get a job quickly. Austin’s economy is booming, and unemployment is low. Once clients start to apply, jobs come quickly. Take Georgia, for example. She came in this past month and said, “Shazaam! I got a job today. They hired me on the spot! I start tomorrow.” I had watched her behavior on the streets for a while, and I was skeptical things would go so quickly for her. Turns out, she was very good at navigating the interview for an entry-level job.

Surprise #2: most street youth leave new jobs soon, not because they are fired (as we had assumed), but because they quit! When we asked clients why, most told us they quit in order to avoid a social awkwardness they encounter at work. After her first week, Georgia came to us, worried. “Somebody told my boss I wasn’t doing a good job,” she said. “I guess this job is about over.” As we role-played her options, she said her first instinct was to tell off the “somebody,” a co-worker. She talked herself out of that. Her second idea was to plead her case with her boss, saying “I’m just a street girl doing the best I can.” We know from experience that it’s almost always a bad idea to disclose your homelessness. It raises stereotypes, if not fear or suspicion. “Just ask your boss for feedback,” we suggested. “If the boss is a straight shooter, any issues will be addressed.” Georgia plans to do this now, but if experience holds, she will quit soon for another reason:

Surprise #3: We have discovered through our Job Club efforts that it’s very important for clients to be looking for something they really want — even at entry level. In our weekly Job Club, we ask, “What is your dream job? Who or what company would you work for, no matter what you had to do?” I remember a frustrated young client named Jason giving this surprising answer: “I want to work in trend-setting marketing. I want to be involved in top fashion, top trends, top anything.” And he had just quit three food service jobs in a row! We helped him list entry-level jobs he knew in fashion: janitor at a mall, salesperson at a clothing store, model at an ad agency. Within a week he was selling swimwear! I ran into him not long ago and he’s still there. The job is not a soul-sucking grind, he said. He’s considering community college, is no longer on the streets and pays rent monthly!

We believe such an exercise will help Georgia find an entry-level job she can hold on to! So many of our clients delight and surprise themselves by finding meaningful and productive jobs to lift themselves from the streets. It’s never easy, and us “older folks” probably couldn’t manage a job, being homeless, feeding ourself, staying clean, and all that without a home. But our clients are strong, resilient and amazing! We are so blessed to get such a front-row seat to watch them develop. Thank you for being a part of it!

The opportunities we offer street youth — to wash clothes, eat a sandwich, get an ID, study the Bible, find a shirt that fits, provide bug repellent — help us make inroads into their lives. Positive results often follow! Volunteers who give of their time and in-kind donations play important roles. For more information on participating with SYM, click on the link below:

Click here for volunteer opportunities

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