Posts tagged ‘client solution’

October 13, 2020

Autumn blessings from the SYMin team!

 Congratulations, Jerameel!

SYMin team members Tondra (left) and Yolanda stop by the food trailer where client Jerameel (in back) got a job. The Food Court is right across the street from the Drop-by location where clients gather for food, clothing and other items.

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October 6, 2020

Arrival of baby changed it all for client Chuy


Chuy became a client several years ago when she found herself on the streets, addicted to drugs, beset with anxiety, drama and trauma. At first, she came for food, sleeping bags, clothing, etc. Later, she joined Art Group and displayed a wonderful talent. Next, she experienced healing during Peer Support Group and Bible Study, followed by deep, one-on-one counseling sessions with team members.

   Addiction, however, hounded her – until the day she discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. That day was the beginning of her journey to long-term sobriety. She was living in a tent near the UT campus, working long shifts and saving money for the day her baby was born. She began making decisions with her child in mind. She found a stable home with a family member, and when her son was born, she gave him every comfort.

   When the pandemic hit, she reconnected with our on-line support group several times a week, logging onto Zoom for SYMin Sisters and Heart to Heart. These groups offered her wisdom and prayer. Today, she has an excellent job and is working toward new and larger goals. Chuy is an excellent mother, and she loves her son, whom she named Guage, with all her heart. We are so proud of Chuy!

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September 29, 2020

SYMin targets infant mortality, and a big surprise emerges


Some weeks ago, I noticed a big change had sneaked up on us — a good change. First, I want to go back to our 2015 annual report. We made a pledge to do something about a terrible problem: the infant mortality rate among our clients living around Guadalupe Street was far higher than the rate elsewhere in the United States. Women were becoming pregnant, and the children were not being born alive or weren’t being born at all, due to late-term miscarriages or stillbirth or failure to thrive in the first month. Most who did survive wound up in CPS custody.

It was a horrible situation, and we went to work on it. We tried several things, but none worked until we called the men and women in the community together. First, we urged them to have fewer babies, because they were not ready. That message didn’t resonate. A second message did: children were dying because we weren’t taking good care of the pregnant mothers. At that time, it was common for the community to say to newly pregnant women, “You stay right here with us on the street and we’ll take care of you.” That failed to recognize problems of stress and drugs, especially a new drug at that time called K2 or synthetic cannabinoid.

So — we made it a community goal that women would spend as many months of their pregnancies off the streets as possible. As a result, it is now common for girls who get pregnant to say, “Oh, my goodness, I have to get off the streets,” and for them to seek resources, including friends, family or supported housing. Over the next 18 months — well into 2017 – they made solid progress. We taught them about prenatal care for themselves and their unborn, and how to make plans for nine months ahead. Still, the newborns often wound up in CPS custody, as has been the case for almost all my 20 years working with homeless young adults.

It’s 2020 now (oh boy, is it ever!). We still have about one pregnancy a month – or about nine pregnant clients at any given time, but something amazing has happened. We began hiring more diverse members to our team. We hired more women, and they formed a women’s group, and the women’s group has been particularly supportive of pregnant women and new mothers. I noticed about a month ago that we have six women under our care whose children are living at home with them. That’s far more than ever!

Yes, it’s still a struggle for our moms, and perhaps it’s not ideal, but they are now stable enough they can keep their kids. (There usually is some inspection by CPS from time to time.) I’m really proud of our clients for owning the challenge of making enough change that they can keep their children with them and raise them! This is how we break the cycle of street youth and street dependency.

This is how poverty is solved — one family at a time. I am often asked why there are homeless young adults. And the answer is the breakdown of the family. I don’t want to blame anyone, but one way or another the homeless kiddos do not have the same support their peers in college or at home have – the same housing, supportive parents, educational opportunities and so on. The difference is the families of origin of our clients don’t have the tools or resources or the ability to give that support.

We continue to work toward solutions. And for now, we celebrate the fact that clients under our care have kids at home with them! Thank you for supporting our work and being involved with us. It truly does make a difference! Change is why we love working with our homeless young adults. The future is very bright for them — when they claim it. And we love being guidance counselors as they move through this journey and mature and claim their futures!

                                  — TERRY

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September 25, 2020

Theme weeks prove popular with clients

We continue to adapt our delivery of services to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on the size of gatherings have limited the opportunities for partner groups to volunteer, but we’ve come up with a great idea to counter that — theme weeks.

Most recently, 12 clients participated in the first activity day of Fashion & Jobs Week, at which they were encouraged to pursue their dream jobs. (see photos) Between now and the end of the year, the following weeks will have themes:

Sept. 28 — Self-Care Week (eat well, rest well, care for your body, care for your mind, care for your soul)

Oct. 12 — Exploring Your Identity Week (loving yourself, your heritage, who you are, finding yourself and your community)

Oct. 26 — Halloween Week (includes All Saints Day

Nov. 1 — Day of the Dead, goblins and fun)

Nov. 9 — Favorite Foods Week  (food foods, comfort foods, practical foods)

Nov. 23 — Feast/Gratitude Week (it starts the last two days of the prior week — gratitude, plenty, harvest, feasts of all sorts)

Three and a half weeks of Christmas: Faith 11/30, Hope 12/7, Love 12/14, Peace Out 12/21-22.    Exactly what happens is really up to our partners and volunteers as we brainstorm together how to best help our clients explore and engage each theme in fun and uplifting ways. Partners also can help collect and deliver the needed materials, and — if all parties deem it’s sufficiently safe — participate outdoors with our clients, remembering to wear masks and observe social distancing.

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July 15, 2020

Happy Juneteenth!

On June 19, the clients were celebrating Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas and this year symbolized hope of social justice and equality for all. Clients enjoyed delicious hot meals cooked by volunteers with donated ingredients. Serving was through the front gate of the Drop-in Center; check out the menu!

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July 12, 2020

Clients flocking to SYMin services!

Covid-19 restrictions hit many clients hard immediately, costing them jobs and apartments. Clients turned to SYMin en masse — we reached an all-time April high of 150 clients with drop-by and on-line services. Clients have fulfilled 422 goals this year thru April, another all-time high. We split our staff into two teams — one stays at home and works the phones and internet, chasing down resources that suddenly are more difficult to find; the other sorts in-kind donations and prepares food at the Drop-in Center so clients can be served as they come to the gate outside.

Here are some highlights from a recent day:

  • Five people spent time in our Zoom prayer group.
  • One client got a new job and plans to come to the drop-by for work clothes.
  • Another spent some time learning DIY car repair since she cannot afford repairs right now.
  • Eight clients joined us for Virtual Movie Night and enjoyed chatting and watching Scooby Doo!
  • Eighteen clients came by to get food pantry bags and clothing.
  • A young woman made use of the outside laptop to research jobs and how to get a copy of her social security card.
Hot meals still served
Hot meals are still a favorite. We prepare them inside the Drop-in Center, then pass them to clients through the gate outside.

Drop-by services

We re-organized our clothing and other client supplies so we can carry the right sizes out to the front gate more quickly.
Client events go on-line
Our client events have all gone virtual since the Drop-in Center became inaccessible to groups of 10 or more. Client links to them on Facebook.

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July 10, 2020

Clients flock to SYMin ‘Drop-by’ Services

Indoor activities at the Drop-in Center remain suspended as we start June, but staff can still use the facility to collect and sort donations and prepare hot meals and food bags for distribution to clients outside at the front gate.

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May 8, 2020

Adapting to the virus!

Our “Drop-by team” handed out supplies, food and clothing through the gates in front of the Drop-in Center as we met clients — keeping a safe distance — after coronavirus restrictions were put in force. The offerings included a pizza party, above and at right!

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December 3, 2019

Christmas for SYM Clients

Merry Christmas!

   As the time to share that greeting rolls around each year, I think of the 3,000+ clients our ministry has served since we began in 2008. What kind of Christmases will they have?
   Thanks especially to social media these days, we know more of the answers. Some clients have excelled, and they’ve written us. A few lives ended tragically. Other clients intrigue us – they surface periodically to say “thanks” or share news, infusing us like the episodes of an old-fashioned serial, complete with cliffhanger endings.

   Such a continuing story this year was shared by a client whose street name was “Powder”:

   2012-13, off and on – Powder attended a few of our events back before we had our Drop-in Co-op, and he came to the 2013 Christmas party at All Saints Episcopal. He was using drugs at the time, and he ran around with friends using street names like Merce, Grinch and Bean.
   We hadn’t seen Powder since 2013, then he resurfaced three years later with a Facebook message:
   1 a.m., June 16, 2016 – “You probably won’t remember me. I hung around for a little while in 2012-2013.  I remember speaking to you multiple times at the Drop-in. I don’t know how many success stories you hear, but I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t done dope in 2 1/2 years and I just bought my own house in a suburb of Kansas City.”
   I checked into his records and finally ran into an old photo that summoned memories. What I didn’t know was how deeply we had changed the direction of this young man’s journey. Powder and I had the following Facebook exchange, edited for space:
   Terry: “Well congratulations on all that! … I always love hearing from people who are doing well. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) to know that it’s a whole lot of people!
   Powder: “I was pretty nondescript and tried my best not to be noticed.  If you don’t remember me that doesn’t hurt my feelings, I remember you and the rest of the staff and how much the simple things y’all did for me helped. It made me feel like an actual person.”
   Terry: “I know your face. I don’t yet recall your street name Powder. I’m really glad we were able to love on you a bit and that it helped. What made you decide to retire and get sober and all that?
   Powder: “I just got tired of living that way. I went to jail for a few months, then a psych ward, and then a rehab program. After that I just decided I wasn’t going to go back and live that way again, so I got into a halfway house and got a job and all that.”
   Terry: “Cool. I’m glad. I assume it’s better for you? Doesn’t have to be, but is faith a resource for you at this point?
   Powder: “I struggle with faith and spirituality. I have had a lot of things happen, seen things and whatnot, but it just doesn’t seem to “click.” I haven’t had the spiritual awakening or whatever you want to call it.”
   Terry: “I’d say be patient with yourself and stay in touch with that part of you that knows or wants there to be something bigger than us. It doesn’t hurt to hang around people who are further along than you are, but not to let them tell you what to think. Just to learn and see and feel how it is for them. I’ll be praying for you in that regard. Any other way I can be praying for you? Also, could I use your words to encourage others? I wouldn’t use your name unless you want me to. Recovery is a long road and it’s great for those who feel like it may never happen to them to hear from people like you who were around quite a while but are recovering!”
   Powder: “Yeah sure, I appreciate all your help, past and present.”
   Fast forward three years, four months. I heard from him again:
   11:08 p.m., Oct. 5, 2019 — “Touching base again, Terry. I just want to say again how helpful the Drop-in was to me at a time when I needed it the most. I’m still sober, haven’t touched drugs or booze since January 10, 2014. I’m still bouncing around, but I’m in much better condition than I was back then, physically and spiritually.
   “I have a skilled trade. I’m a butcher. I work full-time and I can’t help but feel like I’ve left that world behind. It’s for the best, but some of the happiest moments of my life happened on the Drag. I’ve noticed that it’s almost like a class graduating: people I knew ended up dead, in prison or clean, and a new generation came to replace our spots.
   “Now I’m sitting on the couch in a home that I ‘own’ and watching cable. I’m not in Missouri anymore. but that’s where I learned to butcher, in a family-owned shop that was looking for some help during deer season. I managed to leverage that into a union full-time job at a grocery store. I’ve tried to settle down a couple times and it just hasn’t worked out. I think I just enjoy being a rambler.
   “I’m still not sure where I stand on my beliefs. I go back and forth a lot. I’d like to settle down somewhere, That’s the big one. I want to continue this trend of “living a normal life” without being too boring. Maybe I just need to find a hobby. I’ll get back in touch with you again when I think about it.
   Terry: “How old are you now?”
   Powder: “I’m headed toward 27, I was 19-20 in Austin.”
   Terry: “You’re right on track. I find a lot of people who hit the road for whatever reason start settling things at about 26 or so.”
   Powder: “That’s nice to hear, honestly. I had a lot of people ask me when I was in high school  and “full of potential” what I wanted to do with my life, and when I would say “ I don’t know,” I’d get the same long and boring lecture about needing to do something important.
   “I wish someone would’ve told me, or I would have known that it’s totally OK to make $35,000 a year cutting meat and going fishing every day before work. I’m never gonna have a lot of anything, but I have enough of the stuff I want and a plan for the immediate future, which is to move someplace that has trout and moving water so I can learn how to fly fish.
   “I just wish I could’ve started on this path five years ago and not be struggling toward it now. I suppose you know what they say about wishing in one hand and doing something in the other. I just have to remember I’m not that old yet, and there’s still time. Pleasure to have met you, Terry.”

Read on… for the follow up story of Powder  

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December 2, 2019

Defining our life purpose





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   Toward the end of
my “conversation” with Powder, I saw words that concerned me yet left me with
hope. He’s still “struggling,” he said, but “I’m still not that old yet, and
there’s still time.” In my final reply, I sought to leave some thoughts that
would carry him over to the next time we connected, or beyond. Here’s what I
   “If I had heard
you say that “you don’t know” when you’re 18 or 19, I would’ve responded,
‘That’s OK. You’re not supposed to know yet.’ I think your life has purpose,
but that purpose is probably not defined by what you do to earn money or to

   “I think that
purpose is probably defined by the relationships you have in your life and what
you do with them: being kind, being patient, seeking peace, instilling hope,
loving others, etc. And I bet you still don’t know all the answers to that
question — and it’s still OK. I’m sorry for the angst and more along your
path, but I don’t even know that you started out on the wrong path. It led to
here, and it leads into the future. So perhaps it was the right one all along.”
   We likely have
this type of impact on our clients with our guidance counseling every day and
don’t yet know it. Our journeys in life are filled with people who matter to us
and people to whom we matter. Sometimes we don’t even know it. This Advent and
Christmas, enjoy the journey and enjoy the people around you. You never know
who you will be making a difference to!
   Thank you for
supporting SYM and being a part of making a difference!

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