The average age of our clients is 23. More than half were in foster care in Texas. Thirty percent are women. Some travel from city to city frequently, often by freight trains, and others are more local. They are often invisible and unwanted and, as a result, very mobile. They generally prefer to be called street youth rather than homeless. Our word for them is street-dependent, since they depend on the street for food, clothing, shelter, self-care, friends and support. When they first come to the street, the street is often the best place they have ever experienced. Their needs are quite different than a typical older homeless person. This is why SYM exists.
We met 228 new street youth in 2016 and served 533 unique individuals. In our service area in 2016, we averaged 65 individuals each week, about 15% new, 75% continuing from the previous week, and about 10% returning from the past. The 2015 Homeless Point in-Time Count showed 1877 homeless individuals in Austin. The 2016 Youth Voices Count census showed 133 homeless youth 25 years old under under in Travis County.
Not only do we build relationships with our clients, but we also provide crucial resources such as meals and snacks, socks, toiletries, and clothing. We provide bus passes when working toward goals and college textbooks when enrolled in school!
At 11am, we hold a relationship-building activity. You need to arrive no later than 11:30 to be included. We share a meal together and get to know one another. At 1pm, our co-op team members clean, restock and prepare our drop-in for opening. We realize that not everyone is ready to be a co-op team member, but we expect that everyone will get there. Our drop-in is open from 2-6pm in a come and go format. Our drop-in is easy to access and resembles an apartment, with a kitchen for food, a closet for clothing, a pantry for food, a medicine cabinet for toiletries and first aid supplies, bunk-beds for napping, and a home office for taking care of business.
In addition, we provide access to strengths-based guidance counseling, prayer requests, group activities at 3pm, worship, Bible study, and safe fun activities. When the need arises, we provide candlelight vigils and memorial services.
We give individuals safe and predictable access to our clients that they would otherwise find challenging to create. Volunteers can make a real impact in the lives of people who have rarely been accepted or loved. We train all our volunteers in safe practices and boundaries. Volunteer work in 2 hours shifts. During our relationship event, you will do familiar things such as food preparation, setting the table, sharing a meal, and cleanup. During our come and go events, you will do familiar things like sorting mail, baking snacks, heating food, logging donated items for our pantry or closet, greeting people, or helping clients in the home office with referrals or other information.