Posts tagged ‘standing in the rain’

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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March 12, 2009

You Just Stand


Today I had a hard ministry day. I was sick last week in the bed with flu, so I was really glad to be back in the field and in the streets. The first half of my day went as expected. People were glad to see me up and around again. I helped various people. I supervised as a group of friends help a friend walk off a bad dose of drugs. I counseled a young man wanting to stop his heroine use. I made plans to help someone write a resume and encouraged them in overcoming anxiety they have with the whole job thing. All this may sound bad or like a downer, but it is what I was made for. I am shaped perfectly in order to do the work described. The tough part came in the last two hours of my day.

I was presented by a friend with a young person, about 28 years old. This person was new to the streets. They needed help (physical things to make a night on the street safer), but it was after 5pm so none of the best sources of help were open any longer. This person was anxious inside the crowded place where we met, so I went outside to talk with him. It was cold and rainy today, so this meant being outside with him. I did an mental assessment through our conversation. This person was not a danger to himself. This person was not hooked on drugs. But this person has had about a multi-month episode of troubles. The more I talked, but more I could tell that this person was suffering some side effects of a mental condition. However, it was mild enough that there was no need to call in help.

I explained the options available to this person for shelter tonight. He didn’t like them. I understood but there really wasn’t any other options to offer. He could go to one of our two shelters. Both are scary. He could call a number in his pocket of someone willing to loan him a tent so he could camp outside. He could begin to hitchhike to his sisters in another state. Or he could pursue a couple of other even poorer options. However, for each, he had reasons why he couldn’t choose the option.

I tried another approach. I explored his relationship assets. He has a terrible and broken relationship with his father. No help there. His mother is dead. His sister lives in another state and will only help if he goes there. He has no friends in town, except friends that he labels as evil.

I tried faith. I asked if faith were a resource for him, an open ended question that usually gets an honest answer about the faith of a person. He said yes emphatically. So I asked him what kind and how that was going. He said that he’s a Christian seeker, and doing all he could to learn more. What luck… I’m a Christian missionary! I asked about his current understanding. It seemed minimal (although I have no need to judge him), so I explained grace. He understood but still I could sense that it wasn’t all there for him yet. We talked about sin. He seemed to understand, but I could tell that he didn’t quite. We talked about how rebellious we all are and how Jesus will absolutely always take us back. His eyes watered but he still held back. Finally, I asked him if he believed he was truly a beloved child of God. He said he wanted to, but something held him back. He said it was all the evil around him. We prayed together for safety, deliverance, comfort, and guidance.

Despite all that I knew to do, I could not get through today. I could not help him find a good alternative for shelter. I could not help him find a good resource for support. I could not help him today break through in his faith. There was nothing left to do but to stand in the cold and the rain with him. We stood and talked for about an hour more. We were both quite chilled. He was troubled enough that I just could not leave him. I was reminded of a Linda Martin song, “What do you do when it seems like you can’t make it through? Well you just stand. When there’s nothing left to do, you just stand. Watch the Lord see you through. After you’ve done all you can, you just stand.” So we just stood.

When it came time for me to leave, he thanked me. He said that I had obviously given him all that I had to give and he was grateful. He called the friend who might help him find a place to camp outside tonight. I pray that he is safe. I pray that he finds a way to surrender and accept grace. I pray that he finds a peace that surpasses all understanding tonight.