Posts tagged ‘homeless youth’

November 30, 2016

New Space for Street Youth Along Guadalupe to Open in January – By KATE GROETZINGER


Missionary & Founder of Street Youth Ministry Terry Cole speaks with local area youth in the hall of the Congregational Church.
In a room at the Austin Congregational Church, Terry Cole talks with 10 young adults. They’ve come to see Cole, but also to eat. 
When  Cole was laid off of his job as an engineer in 2008, he decided to dedicate his life to rehabilitating young people living on the street around UT. By his account, homeless youth have called the West Campus neighborhood near Guadalupe Street known as “the Drag” home since at least the 1970s.
Every Tuesday, Cole holds court at the Congregational Church, where he invites young homeless people from 18 to 30 years old to come eat. His organization, Street Youth Ministry, serves homeless youth through events held in churches around UT.
According to Cole, the youth he serves have always been drawn to the neighborhood around the university for the same reason other young people are.
“Young people like to hang out with young people. That’s just a universal fact,” Cole said. “They are separating from parents and they want to hang out with each other, and the center of young people in Austin is undeniably the 40 Acres.”
Jerome Ray, a client of Street Youth Ministry, is one of these young people. He says he likes to hang out with students at the residential co-ops in the neighborhood. But, when he hits the drag, he is treated differently than the students he befriends.
“Two weeks ago I went into Medici Café,” Ray said. “And, when I walked in the guy was like, ‘Hey, you need to buy something.’ And I was like, ‘Do you talk like that to all your customers, or is it just because my pants are dirty? It’s just because my pants are dirty, huh?’”
Cole says the police also treat homeless youth differently. Ever since the murder of UT student Haruka Weiser by a young homeless person last spring, Cole says the neighborhood has been hostile toward his clients, as well as his ministry. 
Cole speaks with two clients at Congregational Church.
“Around the first of March in 2016, the West Campus neighborhood united in a very solid message that said, ‘We are getting rid of homeless young people’” he said. “It was actually prior to the murder.”
Cole says he’s seen the number of homeless youth in the neighborhood decrease by half of what it was in 2015, when it spiked due to people in the area making and using the drug K2 on the street.
“The community has demanded the presence of the police, and it has without question improved the safety on the street. Unless you’re a young homeless person looking for services, then they feel pretty unsafe right now,” Cole said.
Cole is focused on rebuilding trust between homeless youth and the West Campus community. He encouraged his clients to come up with a way to give back to the neighborhood, and they decided to “own” the alley behind AT&T and Jamba Juice on the drag.
“And by ‘own’ they mean they want to document its deplorable condition and make it better,” he said. “And they want to go to business owners and say, ‘Look, we’re doing this and we’re going to keep doing this. We’re part of your neighborhood, and we’re not all bad.’”
Street Youth Ministry will move into its first brick and mortar location at the corner of San Antonio and 23rd Street in January. The space is currently a drop-in clinic for homeless youth operated by LifeWorks, which lost funding for the space this year.
“There are seven rooms in the space, and I’m partnering with different organizations – mostly churches, but they don’t have to be – to outfit the rooms with supplies for creative self expression, like music and art, and meditation. I think it will become a destination for homeless youth in the neighborhood.”
Cole’s work with homeless youth goes beyond what he calls the “core services” provided by the LifeWorks clinic – some of which Street Youth Ministry will continue to provide when they move into the location. Cole specializes in what he calls “relationship services”, working with his clients to help them achieve stability and get off the streets permanently.
“I think it’s just really important that people realize there’s a positive outcome here,” he said. “They don’t become career homeless people, and it’s why they need special help, and it’s why we’re here.”
Ultimately, Cole hopes to change the perception of street youth around UT. He says that the majority of the youth he works with get off the street within a year and half of deciding to do so.  

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August 23, 2013

Generating Excitement


SYM recently was invited to “table” at a Christian ministry fair for incoming freshmen at the University of Texas. We did this last year and it was pretty successful. We did get one or two new volunteers from the effort. This year I set goals of (a) not doing this alone, (b) giving out at least 50 brochures, and obtaining at least 25 emails on our iPAD of people who’d like to be reminded with more information once school starts.
I asked the president of our new student organization at UT, Friends of Street Youth, to help me find a volunteer to do. And I asked a regular volunteer to go around at one of our fellowship events for clients and find two clients willing to help out with the event. So with a couple of people to go with me, a schedule and a plan for the tabling event, we set off.
We quickly setup the table. It looked great. By using an iPAD, we kept things simple. We had a few photos of UT students interacting with clients at events and a call to action: Please share your email address on your iPAD or text it to us to get more information.
There were 200 students at Ignite. They came into the fair in three groups. My volunteers went to work. It was awesome! They did such a great job of quickly explaining what we do and then asking if the student would like to get involved.
I listened to a client tell it this way: “We help 60 to 80 street kids on the edge of UT campus every week. We help them with food, clothing, prayer, Bible study and such.” He would stop to let the student ask for me or say something. “Sounds cool. What do I do?” He would continue, “We need your help with events every day. You just hang out with street youth. It really works. This is me in the picture. And now I’m going to start college on August 23!”
We gave out 139 brochures, far surpassing my goal. And we collected email addresses from 54 freshmen who want to know more about SYM! But the best part came later.
Since I didn’t really have any role at the fair outside of planning and getting the people there, I walked around. I found a group of students bunched together at the end of one of “groups.” One girl was very animated and excited. I could see she had a SYM flyer in her hand. She was telling all her small group how exciting SYM was and how cool it was to see a life transformed. She couldn’t wait to volunteer. I offered the whole group flyers and they all took them. Now that’s excitement!
Come and join us!

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

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


via Blogger http://streetyouth.blogspot.com/2013/08/generating-excitement.html

August 7, 2013

Recovery and Integration


During recovery counseling, we often encourage clients to separate the bad things they do from themselves. We talk of “the addiction” or “the urge to steal” or whatever it is. And as the client regains balance, “the addiction” loses power and shrinks. And at some point, we encourage integration once again, the recognition that “the addiction” is within them and part of them. Eventually they can use that knowledge to be stronger and to be just exactly who they are.
This poem was written by a client in recovery with 12 steps, who was recently baptized, and who attends church and small groups regularly. This poem is about his “shadow self”–a dark part of himself that has driven the self-destructive behavior in his live for many years. He writes about what the shadow-self wants in order to gain power over if and to be free from it. While it’s dark, look at the consequences of knowing this! With knowledge and submission and humility, this client is free from sin and free to follow Christ! 
As you read this dark poem, remember that is is written in first person from the perspective of the thing within that wants to harm. The words of “the shadow” are full of desperate lies, hoping to gain control of what is not rightfully his. This client is free! And he knows the words are untrue! May it be so for all who seek recovery.
Shadow Mission
The thief in the night that stole my life
in an enemy’s grip that chokes the light.
Bending the soul, he buried the knife.
The blackness came in a bloody fight.
He said, “Here are the tools. Take what you want
from family and friends. Then you can flaunt
an arrogance that will make them blush,
while they speak of you in a quiet hush.
You don’t need them. You just need me.
No need to love touch and see.
How quickly and quietly their hearts will flee.
No need for salvation, a lord and savior.
You can run around in bad behavior.
The illusion of freedom I give to you
until I take everything, even your shoes.
Walk around the world your head stuck in glue.
Reach out for anyone, and no one is there.
The embrace of your loved ones becomes a blank stare.
Your hands always dirty with knots in your hair.
You’ve given up everything, the ability to care.
A cage in a cage with a side order of chains.
You hold me, your enemy, as I blow out your brains.
No keys can free you, I made you a slave.
Your only serenity becomes an unmarked grave.
You live as a coward, and envy the brave.
Your mine for eternity , unable to save.
Join us at SYM.
“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

via Blogger http://streetyouth.blogspot.com/2013/08/recovery-and-integration.html

July 30, 2013

What triggered such a big change from electrical engineering to humanitarian work?


I was at a dinner party the other day. The hostess asked me to explain what I did at Street Youth Ministry. [We don’t hijack dinner parties but we are please to share when supporters ask!] The next day, I got an email from one of the guests. He asked, “If I may ask, what triggered such a big change from electrical engineering to humanitarian work?”
It’s a long story, but the short answer is that this culture of “throwaway” youth broke my heart when I began volunteering by accident to serve them a meal once a month in 2003. As I learned more about them over time by listening and observing, I was so amazed by their strength and resilience to adversity. As I listened to them even more, I realized they were very spiritual as a whole, and they were hungry to hear God’s story but really had significant issues with “church” and “Christians.” One thing led to another, and here I am serving them daily to help them achieve for themselves stability, sobriety, reconnection to God and a Christian community. Our motto reflect my own journey with the street youth: to know, love and serve street-dependent young people so that some may come to know Christ.

Check out all the programs we offer and other information about SYM.

“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

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July 23, 2013

A Client’s Perspective on What We Do


In response to our Blog on Big Things in Clients Lives, we received this comment. It paints a picture from the perspective of a client of what our supporters, volunteers and leaders do that is very eloquent.
As a former (really ongoing, as Terry’s care is always available and extended whenever I’m in the area) client, I can say that without Street Youth Ministry the Drag would be a much more cold and unforgiving place than it already is for street kids. Terry actually understands the intricacies of the traveling lifestyle[…][SYM] understands differentiation between traveling kids and displaced local youth but still extends [their] aid to both, as they both qualify. I still struggle with addiction every day, but I know I can always talk to Terry even if I’m on the other side of the country. We’d be a lot more stuck without [SYM], and I hope to see you again soon.
Together our supporters and volunteers make a big difference in the lives of about 80 clients every single week. We meet about 500 new clients every single year. And we love hearing from as many as possible through email, text messaging, Facebook, or when they visit Austin.

There are many ways to become involved with SYM.  

“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

via Blogger http://streetyouth.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-clients-perspective-on-what-we-do.html

March 14, 2010

Traveling Youth


Traveling kids are part of the street youth culture. These kids, unlike clients who stay in Austin, ride trains around the country. They get crusty and dirty. They come to town, stay a few days, and often move on. They don’t always fit in with the rest of the street youth. They are sometimes harder to get to know. And yet they are a joy to know when we get the chance.

At the beginning of outreach this past Friday, I saw a very experienced traveler named “Peter” sitting quietly on a church lawn. He was in an out-of-the-way corner with another younger traveler, “Joe”. As you can see from his photo, Peter’s appearance is very distinctive; he has tattoos all over and wears a lot of leather and metal. He clearly stays outside all the time, but his sleeping bag is good and his heavy pack is filled with gear and supplies. Peter was feeling terrible the day before and had been abrupt with others.  Still, I wanted to say “hello” again and offer both some outreach materials: food, water, and information. Peter is suffering from a set of things that are sometimes fatal to traveling kids-complications of a life led hard and fast. Sometimes they get over it… sometimes they don’t.

I said a prayer of healing for Peter as I approached the two of them. I smiled. I called Peter’s name. He looked surprised, probably thinking I was going to complain or ask him to move along. But then I saw that he recognized me. He smiled back. Today, he was in a better mood. 

“Hey! I’ve got some sandwiches and snacks. Need any?” I asked. He pointed to a box of food on the ground. “A dude name ‘SteamTrain’ just kicked down a bunch of sandwiches. I’m good. Full in fact.” “Wow! SteamTrain is back!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen him in…9 months or more. Wow! I can’t wait to see him again.” “He’s pretty famous. He’s been traveling a long time. It was cool to sit and talk with him this afternoon.” Then Peter asked, “Do you have any juice or something?” “I have drink flavoring and water. Would that do?” “That would be awesome! It helps take away the bad taste that sometimes hangs in your mouth.”

“I also have a goody bag. Would that help out?” He said, “Sure,” but it was half-hearted. I handed the full gallon zip-lock bags to him and his friend.  As he looked it over, I explained, “4th and 5th graders made them. I taught them about the things a traveler might want.  They put the bags together and put a note in each one. I taught them that you like some of the same things they do, so they each brought a toy from home to include.” Peter looked the bag over. He smiled and said, “This is the very best outreach bag I’ve ever received! Usually it’s just a pack of crackers, a bologna sandwich, and maybe a bar of soap. But this is packed with cool and useful things.” He read the note and said, ” Take my picture with it so the boy who made it can see and know that I really appreciate it! Oh my! There’s a P-38 can opener in here! This really rocks!”

   
[Peter’s note says, “God loves you. In the bag there are things for you. Love, Clayton.”]

Joe held his note up and said, “Let the boy know that I smiled when I read his note. This is so cool!” 

[Joe’s note says, “I hope this bag makes you smile. (heart). God loves you! M@dden”]

Both of these guys were new to Austin. I took the opportunity to give them a “Know your street rights” brochure. This booklet, prepared by some local lawyers, explains Austin laws pertaining to downtown and street folks. They were so appreciative. While they may be unable to choose to follow all the rules, they don’t want to cause trouble and prefer to know the rules. “We want to get along. We don’t want to ruin it for ourselves or others.” I noticed they had a bag and had picked up all the trash from around the area they were sitting.  “Thank you for doing that,” I said as I pointed to the bag. Joe got up and picked up even more trash from the whole lawn, obviously stuff that had been before they came along.

I said, “I guess it’s time for me to walk on. I’ve got more ground to cover today. I have a question, Peter. Would it be OK if I prayed for healing for you? I know you’ve been feeling bad and I know it can be very serious. I’d like to pray for you.” He said, “Of course, man. I’d love that. You’re a good man and your prayers might just help.”


The rest of the day of outreach was fantastic, perhaps one of the best days on street outreach that I can remember. I kept my promise and prayed for Peter several times that afternoon. I worked late into the evening because I had opportunities to lay hands and pray on one troubled young man, chances to offer drug counselling to a couple who hope to clean up soon, check-ins with at least four clients who are no longer on the street and working to maintain and improve their more stable lives, and the opportunities to meet and greet in the name of Jesus Christ more than 20 street-dependent individuals. 

As I drove away from my parking space that evening, Peter and Joe were peacefully sitting in the same place in the dark. I said one final prayer. “Lord, please help them pass the night peacefully. In their dreams, let them have visions of knowing you. Let them know the truth of who you are. Let them wake tomorrow with a need to respond to your love and a hunger to know more about you. In the night, repair Peter’s body and help him to make choices that will allow it to keep healing. Thank you for allowing me to minister to these two and all these others in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
April 8, 2009

But Sunday’s Coming!


I have been thinking about hope a lot this week. This is Holy Week. I asked my Sunday school friends to try to experience the whole week as a sequence of events and emotions. It starts with great expectation on Palm Sunday. It continues with teaching, preaching, and reforms in the early part of the week. It deepens on Thursday with the service of humble foot washing, the giving of a new dual commandment: Love God with All Your Heart –AND– Love One Another. This is the height of spiritual teaching. Then Thursday takes a drastic turn as Jesus begins the preparation for the cross by saying goodbye, praying in the garden, and drinking the cup. Friday begins with early morning betrayal, the chaotic questioning by the political leaders, mocking, and beating. Then finally in the afternoon, Jesus dies. All of nature cries out in anguish: black clouds roll, thunder peals, the curtain of the temple tears. Saturday is a day the church suffers without it’s head, for Jesus is separated form the Father and descends into hell. And we would all stay in the lost, lonely and dark state but for one thing.

Hope is all that can get you through this. “But Sunday’s coming!” is the cry of encouragement from my former pastor and friend. No matter how deep the dispair, “Sunday’s coming.” And on Sunday, the Lord is risen, we are blessed and assured that the Father, Son, and Holy ghost are one, and they pour love down us afresh and cover us with grace.

I think the life of a young person who lives on the street might be like Holy Week. I don’t know if all their lives started out with joyful entry, but I think they usually do. Even if the home life is troubled from the start, I think they enter into it with the innocence of children. And in many cases, home life wasn’t always difficult.

Recently several separate youth revealed to me that they had a grandparent or a special person who held everything together for a family. Some even mention grandparents who guided the family toward God. But once they were gone, the family lost it’s way and many turned away from God.

At some point, questioning and debate and argument broke out into the life of the youth. Maybe they sought a different life and headed for the street. Maybe they just found a different home life right there at home as things fell apart for the family. And at some point, the innocence of youth turned into something else. They may have been beaten, abandoned, abused. They may have begun to abuse themselves and use substances.

“But Sunday is coming.” Jesus has something for these youth that can and will change everything. It turns mourning into dancing. It turns night into day. The grace of God, received afresh, gives us the power to transform and be transformed in every way.

“Sunday is coming.” Hope can spring afresh for these youth. But we must wait. We must be vigilant. We must stand ready to spread the word that the tomb is empty. Jesus has conquered sin and death, and he loves *you* and will help turn your deepest despair, deepest problems, deepest shame into loving God and loving others.

“Sunday IS coming.” Look for it. Count on it.

April 3, 2009

Art Therapy


I recently had the privilege of leading an art therapy group of street kids yesterday. It was impromptu but oh such a blessing to me and (I hope) to them. This was a group of street youth with whom I have been building trust for some time, although there were youth in the group that I didn’t know at all.

I began by handing out a sheet of blank paper and some pencils and markers. They are familiar with art sessions, so some were eager. Often they have free art or assignments, but I told them today would be different. I wasn’t going to tell them what to draw, but I was going to tell them what to think. Naturally, they were skeptical and a few popped off with jokes. However, the trust level was high enough that they waited for instruction.

I asked them to think of themselves and then think of another person. It should be someone they have a relationship with… past, present, or future. It could be someone specific, or it could be someone they want to have a relationship with. Some blurted out past friends and other blurted out the names of sexy superstars.

I told them their assignment was to think hard about the relationship between themselves and the person. What did it look like? What color was it? What did it make them think of? How did it make them feel? While they were still thinking of all these things, I wanted them to draw whatever came to mind. Surprisingly (to me) they each got this abstract assignment right away and started drawing.

A group of street youth are like most groups of people… some have great drawing talent and some don’t have as much developed talent. One youth started drawing like a savant in the movies… his hand never stopped and his picture just became more and more detailed… although it had a great cartoon-like characteristic. Some youth (and me) drew very primitive drawings in 2-D. Some youth were totally abstract and drew images based on the relationship. Some were very concrete and drew great depictions of themselves and the person and the type of things they held in common.

As each youth finished, I asked the group to stop and listen to the youth describe the relationship. Confidentiality prevents me from sharing the drawings or stories with you, but it was very moving. Some youth talked about current significant others. Some talked about a future life. Some talked about damaging relationships and how they hoped to heal from them someday. Some talked about supportive relationships with people they had lost contact with or people who had died.

This exercise left me amazed at how complex we all are. We experience this life in connection with others no matter whether we embrace relationships or whether we avoid them. Relationships come from all sorts of sources (relatives, friends, family, fantasy) and with all sorts of intentions (loving, hurtful, supportive, damaging, healing). We attribute many of our struggles to difficult relationships and perhaps we are totally right about that.

After doing this for 5 years (and one of my mentors has been doing this for more like 25 years so I know that I’m still a “newbie”), I’m totally convinced that the one characteristic that all homeless share (or come the closest to sharing) is the lack of an effective support network. They aren’t connected anymore. And I’m convinced that relief is great, but healing won’t occur and their life won’t be full until they are able to form and maintain an effective support network.

The greatest relationship of all that waits for most of the street youth is a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Some have this relationship already, but it’s quite rare, I would say. The majority have encountered and evaluated the concepts of a relationship with God (through the eyes of family members, friends, or Christians they have encountered along their journey) and rejected them. (And I would say the two top reasons for rejection are that they youth judged the person to be hypocritical or the youth felt judged by the person who was conveying the Christian message.) However, my calling is to reintroduce them one more time to a restoring and life transforming relationship with God. And I know the youth yearn for this relationship. About 25% of the pictures drawn had an element that included a restored relationship with the “universe”, with God, or that mourned a lost relationship with someone who had brought order into their life. In most cases, religion and church were directly mentioned as characteristics of the person who had once anchored their life but who had been lost to them through death or separation.

Let us pray that continued planting of seeds, continued patience, and continued love by the body of Christ will eventually enable a restored relationship! Amen.

March 28, 2009

Plain Talk


I am often asked what do I do when I’m on the street. I have been keeping track of my activities for the last couple of months so I could better answer that.

In a typical week during the winter (our “busy” season), I spoke with between 60 and 70 people in a week. While my target is on young people in the 17 to 27 age range, this number includes all homeless people I meet. However, about 90% of it is in the target range. And every week I meet between 10 and 15 new people. So that means in the last 3 months of winter (13 weeks) I have met and spoke with between 190 and 250 people! That might seem like a lot, but you have to remember that Austin data conservatively shows there to be between 900 and 1000 homeless people not in shelters under the age of 25.

I speak with a person an average of twice a week. So I’ve had the privilege of about 500 conversations in the last 3 months.

Now what does “speak with” mean. What’s in a conversation with Street Youth Ministry? I don’t want to mislead you and think that I have a 30 minute in depth session with each person, but I do have that with some. To further think about my ministry and what I do, I have divided my conversations into types: introduction, follow-up, witness, discipleship, counselling, and employment. I actually see far more than the number I count, but if I don’t at least have one of these types of conversations, I don’t include it in the count.

The first time I meet someone, it’s an introduction. I typically just meet them, focus on learning their name and something that will help me remember their name. Often I learn their dog’s name because the pair is easier to remember than just the one name alone. I try to find out where they are from and where they are travelling from most recently. I try to find out if they are staying for a while or just passing through.

The subsequent times I meet them, it’s typically a follow-up. Follow-up can be quick and is by far the most common type of conversation. I recall their name (or get help so I can remember it better next time). Then I ask how they are. Then I go into follow-up by guiding the conversation around to whatever they said was going on with them last time. For example, if they had lost their ID last time, I ask how it’s going in terms of planning to get a new one and in terms of problems caused by that. If possible, I try to guide them to forming a simple next step in their plan or process. This includes things like drinking, drugs, needing clothing, a job, emotional issues, relationship issues, etc.

When a person is truly working on something and I can make space and time to work with them, I call this counselling. This is typically 10 to 30 minutes in duration. In that time, I used techniques like harm reduction, the change model, and strengths based conversation to help them work toward a plan of their own to improve or better deal with some aspect of their life. It can be reduction of drinking, reduction of drug use, reduction of violent behavior, having safer sex. It can be figuring out their resources that are relevant to getting things they needs like clothing, medical care, dental care, food, transportation, ID. Sometimes it working specifically toward employment. I do this often enough that I consider that a special category. If I work on resumes, job interests, practice interviewing, or sources of jobs with folks, I call that an employment conversation.

Occasionally, a youth presents in crisis. The working definition for crisis that I use is the state where a person cannot form plans of their own. Solutions that are in their head are simply not accessible to them in the crisis state. In such a case, I help them remain calm, assess the situation, and even decide on an initial course of action. Helping them to recall how they have dealt with problems like this in the past is very helpful. Helping them identify resources and relationships they have that can help is useful. Guiding them to not be a harm to themselves or others is crucial. Typically a crisis state doesn’t last too long because these kids are very resilient and respond well to crisis counselling. Because I work in a team environment, I can often pass along severe situations to licensed social workers or to professional emergency services in Austin. However, I handle mild to medium crisis quite often. This means helping someone realize they cannot afford to ignore a health problem any longer. This means helping someone through the initial shock of being fired from a job. This means helping someone through the initial shock from a change in a significant relationship. This means helping someone who has reached the end of their rope in terms of faith.

The conversations that I covet the most are conversations of witness and discipleship. I never force these conversations, but I pray for and open the door to them daily. I often ask groups of kids to tell religious jokes. This almost always leads to one of them asking a serious question about faith. I am greeted by “You’re a Christian, right?” at least once a week by someone who has been thinking about a faith question for some time and finally comes forward. Sometimes these are not too serious and I take them as an opportunity to plan a seed. Other times, it question is very sincere and I try to make sure I take time and energy to water seeds already planted by other workers. And sometimes the questions come from a brother and sister in Christ who is in need of support and assurance.

Often I end conversations with the question of “What can I be praying for you about?” Quite often I get “Nothing. I’m good” answer but when I continue to look at them, they usually change their answer. Whenever I can, we pray together for this. Sometimes this is very heart warming and emotional. Sometimes they return to tell of amazing answers to prayer.

So I hope I have given insight into what it looks like to work on the street. It is a privilege. Almost every day is filled with finding new people, finding out new things, and discovering cool things about really interesting people. They are good folks, but they need help. And most of all, they need to know Jesus Christ and have the chance to grow in the presence of His love and mercy.

December 7, 2008

Dreaming Big


I was invited to join in an Austin community planning event called Ending Community Homelessness, ECHO. We heard from community government leaders, non-profit agency leaders and several citizens who were formerly homeless. We saw an exciting new video that addresses 10 common misconceptions about Austin community homelessness. From there we broke into smaller groups with special focus on homeless families, homeless youth, homeless veterans, and homeless with mental illness and chemical dependencies. 

I was assigned to a group that focused on homeless youth. We heard from a representative of Department of Education, a leader of Lifeworks, a leader from Ready By 21 Coalition, and a leader from Casey Family Programs, the instigator of the Raise Me Up campaign. 
Then we were asked to break into even small groups and provide input. We were asked to dream big, describing how Austin will have overcome the challenges of community homelessness in the year 2018. What was key? What was our strategy? What challenges did we face?
Here are the big and bold dreams of my small group concerning homeless youth in Austin in 2018:
We have overcome community homelessness of youth by empowering the youth themselves to be a voice in the solution. We provided mentoring to them and helped draw out the strengths in the youth. We helped organize them and give them a voice of their own. They are now recognised as a strong part of the solution in our community.

We have overcome community youth homelessness in Austin by raising public awareness within our community. We started by educating every single teacher in Austin and every single student about homelessness. We broadened the definitions of homelessness so include those at risk of homelessness and those without support networks. We made homelessness personal to our citizens and gave them personal ways to act and respond. We tied solving homelessness and being good stewards of the earth together. It has become of source of pride in Austin that we are 100% housed.

We have overcome community homelessness in Austin by distributing human scale on-step service delivery all over our community. No one wants shelters and service centers in their back yards to we put it all over town. This allows us to make them smaller so that each person can get a personal touch. We have combined homeless facilities and service delivery in neighborhoods by combining them with other necessary public buildings and services, following the model of Jake Pickle Elementary School. This has provided incentives to neighborhoods to have the facilities and services. We have recouped the cost savings from shrinking institutional programs aimed at criminal justice and invested these savings in community based homeless solutions.
I know it’s a bold and audacios dream, but if 10 people can agree on these visions, why not 100? Why not a whole  neighborhood? Why not a whole community? Dare to dream!