Posts tagged ‘outreach’

September 6, 2015

Helping Clients

Sandwiches given to our clients.

We meet clients almost every day in the 12 blocks just west of the UT campus just as they are and right on the street. We get to know them and try to meet a need immediately. We invite them to our core events. We serve about 60 individuals this way every week. We also hold Wash Nights periodically.

As part of our relationship building and help to clients, we provide access to meals and snacks, socks, toiletries, clothing, and dog food. In addition, we provide bus passes to those clients who are working toward goals. We also provide college textbooks for clients enrolled in school.

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June 15, 2013

Creating a praying community on the street

Some supporters ask how we approach our clients about prayer requests. Many are not Christian, and most do not pray on their own regularly. We simply ask “What do you want God to do for you?” at an appropriate point in our conversations. We like this question because it places emphasis on God’s provision, which is available to believers and unbelievers every day. It also puts God in an active role. Often the answer is “whatever He wants” or “just bless me.” To that we reply, “That’s fine, and we’ll pray. But the more specific you can be, the more helpful it may be. I believe God really wants to know what you want. Maybe He won’t do it, but He wants to hear it.” 
Another way we get into prayer requests is when we are asked for something (like shoes, guitar strings or a backpack). If we have it, we simply say, “God provided one of those today, and I’d be happy to give it to you if it will help.” If we don’t have the thing they have asked about, we never promise to go buy it. We turn it into a prayer request. We write it into our prayer book. And we share it with a prayer team member. The street youth have come to value that a lot. One client puts it this way, “When things go into that little book of yours, Terry–they just happen!” We also usually give them a little homily when they ask for things. We tell them: “Jesus said ‘Ask, seek, and knock.’ The ask part is what you just did. We’ll ask God for it with you, too. The seek part means you start looking for it. We’ll watch out for it, too. And nobody who wants the door opened knocks once and runs away. It means keep looking and keep asking.” More frequently than not, the street youth finds the item before we meet them again, giving us an opportunity to talk about God’s provision for them even on the street. And that’s awesome!

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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June 4, 2013

The Economics of Used Clothing and Shoes

Today I read an article that Oklahoma doesn’t need used clothing and shoes. I want to say that SYM categorically does need them in Austin, Texas. There flat out is insufficient supplies of adult clothing for our our impoverished people here in Austin. Clothing is rationed and people regularly are turned away with shoes falling apart or pants torn due to lack of stock and sizes.
The agencies responding to the crisis in Oklahoma correctly point out that cash is more flexible and requires far less work to manage. They point out correctly that is makes more sense to stimulate the local economy in a crisis by enabling people to purchase new items for themselves. SYM completely agrees with all of this, however, we have to be practical when dealing with a daily flow of impoverished clients seeking help. Funds are not available to cloth our impoverished in Austin. However, we are blessed with volunteers and people willing to donate used clothing. And I know there is a lot  clothing out there. We just need to organize it and get it to the right spots.
First, let’s establish some scale of need for SYM. I would love to receive 500 to 1000 pairs of used adult practical shoes today. We and those we are partnered with can give out 30 or 40 pair of practical adult shoes weekly, about 25% women and 75% men. We can use flip flops, practical sandals, work shoes, work boots, army boots, and even practical dress shoes. Most used shoes don’t last long, unfortunately, and especially when they are your only pair and worn without “rest” every day. We have the storage for about 1000 pairs right now. We don’t have the money to ship it, but we can manage it once it’s in Austin. Would we prefer money to purchase 30 or 40 new pairs of shoes weekly? Sure… but we have to be practical. And there are choices… we’d far rather spend that type of cash on food or rehab or health, for example. For the records, we need about the same number of shorts and belts. These are always in short supply, especially for men. I’ll finish this paragraph by stating that we also give away about 100 pairs of socks every week and could probably give away about that many underwear. (Our ladies prefer panties and our men prefer boxers or boxer-briefs.) We strive to give away new socks and underwear but sometimes we don’t have them.
With that paragraph out of the way, let me share my dream. I dream of the local church in the Austin area collecting used clothing, laundering it, folding it, sorting it, and holding it in a closet. Each church would become part of a network of churches, feeding upwards toward every clothing closet in the city. Some would be collection points; some secondary hubs; and some primary hubs. We’d have a supply network with storage, ready to deliver when needed by a closet. It’s not easy to run a clothing closet, but it would be easy to be a collection point and supply hub. That’s our dream! Certainly we’d like to see it for our most excellent clothing closet partner, University United Methodist Church, and we’d love to see it for every clothing closet in the city. UUMC has the most space dedicated to clothing storage for the poor that I have seen in Austin, and yet they must ration mens clothing and rarely have shoes to fit their clients. We could change that! Distant small towns saving clothing and moving it on occasion to suburbs. Suburban churches saving clothing and moving it to larger hub churches. Volunteers at clothing closets sending out emails to their hubs with monthly needs to be filled. It would be awesome!
Why bother? I think it’s important that the local church gets involved in the lives of all the impoverished people right in their back yards. I know that simply buying “new” clothes would be “cheaper” if you factor in people’s time. But the time is a precious gift, and it may make more of an impact that the clothing can ever do.
If you’re part of a network of churches who would like to organize this clothing railroad, please contact us. This railroad would have a lasting impact on our city for years if not decades to come. It would be green, it would foster fellowship and church inter-working, and it would be run by people who care for and encourage those impoverished in the city of Austin–now 11th largest city in the country. It would be a blessing to the poor and, I know, the volunteers would be blessed as well.

“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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March 23, 2010

Today in Ministry

I recently had request for a description of what I do in a day for ministry. Here was Monday:

9:00 Daily Bible Reading (at home). I read with a group of folks following a reading schedule. We email one another when we’re done to help keep accountability. The group is described here. Anyone can join the group. was founded by a friend of mine. The theme today was God is Faithful.

10:00 Prepared for Bible Teaching on Tuesday. I’m teaching through Matthew 8 this week. The focus will be on the value of faith. I will also help the street youth relate to as many of the people described in Matthew 8 as possible. Some might relate to the leper, the Roman solider, or the demoniacs. (Not that they are any of these, but these men suffer in some of the same ways as many of the street youth.) In addition to reviewing the scriptures and commentaries, I also designed an group session. We will start out by talking about how someone they observed was sick and recovered and how that felt. Then we will share a time we felt really sick ourselves. This will go with the healing theme found in Matthew 8. After the Bible lesson, we will play a memory game with two teams. The game pieces are all items relating to faith. I will ask whoever makes a match to describe someone they know who values whatever the match is. I printed out 15 matching photo pairs with things like prayer, worship, bible… and money, church, running. And we will conclude with a personal time of sharing about the value of faith to them… high, low, strong, weak. How do they take care of their faith? How do they feed it? I printed the lesson plan and emailed it to my helper.

Noon: Had a lunch with my wife. It’s one of the benefits of us both working out of the home! I had a meatloaf sandwich made from marked-down ground beef. We try to use money stewarded to us by donors wisely. After my delicious sandwich, I had my big indulgence for the day: my one cup of coffee. I get irritable after more than one cup and it messes with my sleep, so I enjoy my one good made-at-home cup of coffee after lunch. Mmmmmmm… I checked up on FaceBook and email while I enjoyed it.

2:00 Volunteered at the Street Drop-in Center of Lifeworks (located in the basement of a church on the Drag). Actually I’m an adjunct staff member. This was my first day there in a week because I took Spring Break off from Lifeworks. So everyone was happy to see me again and there were some new folks. I screened a couple of new folks for eligibility. I had to turn one away because he was 24 and was able to help the second with the in-take paperwork. I helped him with food and advised him how to get the bus pass he was seeking. I checked in with a couple I counsel… I regularly ask about their stress and anger levels on a scale of 1 to 10. Both were superb… a very welcome change. I also followed up with a couple of people who I knew were thinking of traveling soon. I tried to follow-up with a very young client, but he was not open to my questions. I tried to follow-up with another young man. He let me know that he was having a terrible day and didn’t want to talk. I respected that and let him have his space. A couple of people started physically play-fighting. I broke that up because the drop-in space has to be safe for everyone. No horseplay allowed. I noticed one young man in bad physical shape. I checked in with him to find out why he was hurting. I helped refer him to some medical advice. I signed one young lady up for dental treatment on Monday. I sat with another young girl who was scowling. Turns out she’s on some medication that is really upsetting her stomach. We talked about what options she might have to help this. I found some saltines for her to take away. All in all, I visited with 19 street youth. Three were new to me. 

3:45 Drop-in clean-up. Each day we spray down all the furniture with bleach water to kill germs and parasites. We sweep the floor and take out all the trash.

4:00 (outside) I walked the Drag from 26th to 19th street. I found my first group in back of a parking lot near 25th. They were talking about one street youth’s birthday party over the weekend. I wished him happy birthday. I followed up with one of these youth about getting an ID. He lacked an address for receiving some important paperwork so I helped him look at his options. I invited them all to Bible study the next day at 2.
I met my next client waiting to cross the light. He’s a very regular Bible reader, but today he was limping. I asked what was the matter and found out that he had gotten a bad foot fungus over the weekend but had begun to treat it. 

I met a trio from Maryland next. They are new to town so I tried to familiarize  them with the rules of downtown Austin (no sitting on sidewalks, no panhandling near ATMs, what aggressive panhandling means). I don’t expect them to follow all the rules, but traveling kids always seem to appreciate someone helping them learn what’s what in a new town. I invited these newcomers to Bible study tomorrow also. 

The next group I met were begging for spare change (they call it “spanging”) at the corner of an abandoned storefront at 24th. I held an impromptu drug counseling with two of these. They have both expressed being sick and tired of addiction. One is taking action to look for a job. The other is thinking of starting over in a new location. I offered options for getting help to both and suggested that both have to start dealing with the addiction… neither jobs nor a new location will be good unless the addiction get addressed. There is no easy path for either of them. However, they can choose which way to go and how much help they accept. Both were appreciative of our discussions. At the same location, I met a young man who I hadn’t seen for a while. He’d been in jail last week. He was drunk and a little out of control. But he was at least talking with me. He has a very big hurt in his life that he needs to eventually deal with. I asked how he was doing… OK. I asked what he’s up to. “What I’m best at,” meaning taking risks and hurting himself. I prayed for him as I stood with him. I pray for him to come face to face with his trouble either working with me or some other person who can offer support. He’s alone with his hurt now… and it’s so much to carry. I reminded them all that they were welcome at Bible study.

The next person I met was one I had seen in the drop-in earlier but who was having such a bad day. He wanted to talk now. I listened to what was bugging him. I was relieved because, even though it was sharply painful for him, it wasn’t severe. We talked about some options he had to relieve what was bugging him. He adopted a plan and set about it. I reminded him about Bible study tomorrow.

This continued as I worked my way down to 19th street. In all I met with 26 people this afternoon. That’s a pretty high number. I gave out nothing today while walking. I do that on Fridays. While it would be wonderful to give stuff out every day, I’ve got a couple of issue with it. First, I’m not buying their relationship and I want them to know that. Second, it takes a lot of time to manage all the material, moving it from donations to storage to loading it and giving it out. I reserve that for Tuesdays and Fridays.

6:30 Dinner with the family. First day back from Spring Break was good for everyone. 

7:30 Responding to emails. A new monthly donor needs to be thanked for letting me know a regular check will be going to Covenant to support my family and ministry. I edited my web site because I noticed some horrible mistakes on the donation drop-off site page. I responded to a donor who wants to drop-off a needed boom-box and to help proofread future publications. I sent thank you notes and photos to the sandwich providers from last week. I uploaded photos from my camera that will be used for an upcoming blog.

8:00 Updated my records for last week. I write down the names of everyone I visit with each day. This helps me learn their names and serves as something I can pray through in spare moments. I enter the records each week into a spreadsheet that updates my web page graphs at far this year, I’ve met 154 new kids and reconnected with 58. I’ve had 1605 contacts so far this year with new and old clients: 143 for witnessing, 28 for crisis intervention, 71 for counselling, and 422 for follow-up discussions.

8:30: Created a welcome email for all those people new to our mailing lists but who haven’t yet received a newsletter. I haven’t sent a newsletter since January, thinking everyone heard quite enough from me in November and December! However, it’s important to keep people aware of FaceBook, the web page with sign-ups, ministry needs, donation methods, etc. I am told over and over again that it is impossible to over-communicate to busy people! The email should be waiting in the in boxes tomorrow morning of the 120 people who are new to Street Youth Ministry volunteer, newsletter, and donor lists since early December 2009.

9:00 Wrote and edited this blog entry.
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 7, 2009

Thank You Volunteers!


“Joe” gives his enthusiastic thumbs-up for a snack bag prepared lovingly by a Street Youth volunteer!

It has been a month now that I launched the Friday volunteer effort. Every Friday I head to the street one more time. But this time, I am armed with sandwiches and snack bags from volunteers!

Normally I work in an environment where kids come to me, either at the Lifeworks Drop-in Center or at the ministry trailer of Cream and Sugar. These are great because the youth have made the choice to come there. However, by going on outreach on the street, I can meet new people and people unable or unwilling to go to these two places. While I often meet resistance from some who give me a hard time about being a Christian (and sometimes under an influence), I also meet people who are receptive and interested in learning more.

If you want to volunteer, please click on the “Volunteer” or “Give” links at the upper right of this blog.

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