What We Do

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SYM helps our clients, our volunteers and supporters, and our community.

What We Do For Our Clients
(Scroll down for volunteers and for community.)

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.

Core: We hold core events through the week: prayer times, guidance counseling periods, Bible studies, fellowship events, and self-care times. We provide food at all of them. Each is safe, welcoming, accepting, and respectful of all. We have about 40 individuals in core weekly.

Special Events:

 We have several special events including Wash Nights, our annual Christmas party, and Cold Weather Responses. In addition, when a client passes away in Austin or the street requests one for friends who pass away elsewhere, we hold a memorial service for street friends to grieve their loss and celebrate the life of their friends.

Referral: We help clients identify their needs needs and can help them get started, but we rely on great partners who specialize in education, jobs, drug counseling, mental health, medical, dental and eye care, and much more. We also strive to connect our clients with local faith communities rather than try to be a functioning church for them.

Tangible Needs: 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.

Intangible Needs:  We provide access to strengths-based street counseling, guidance counseling sessions, prayer requests, worship, Bible reading, and safe fun. When the need arises, we provide memorial services. In our Christmas 2012 survey, clients listed intangible needs as their favorites more frequently than tangible benefits!  

Goal: Our goal for clients is to help them achieve stability, sobriety, reconnection to God, and connection with the Christian community. Clients choose what goals they are working toward, and we guide them. Each month we have about 26 goals achieved, some in each area.
Check out our ministry calendar to see every event we do!

What We Do For Our Volunteers and Supporters
(Scroll down for community.)

Individual Access: We give individuals safe and predictable access to our clients that they would otherwise have a difficult time creating. 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. Volunteers can participate in our front door activities (e.g., mini mission trips or Wash Day), our core events, or as behind the scenes helpers in logistics, administration and other tasks.

Family Awareness: We provide many families with a safe way to relate to and discuss homelessness while they assemble food and collect needed supplies. We also work with families to volunteer directly with our clients at certain events.

Church Partnerships: We are committed to equipping the Church, as the Body of Christ, to see street youth anew and to develop a healthy and sustained response. The best hope for all our clients is the local church. We help churches identify their strengths, hot-buttons, and how they can use who they are to help our clients in a meaningful way.

All our events have lay leadership positions defined and a training program to qualify people to lead. Training occurs with our full-time missionary, and two co-leaders fill in when the missionary is unable to attend. We believe in activating the gift of leadership in our volunteers!

 Accountability: We keep consistent statistics of how we interact with clients and how clients succeed. We listen to clients and supporters, and modify programs to be constantly improving.

 Publications: We publish weekly blog stories about ministry on the streets. We mine our records and make appropriate statistics available. We help partners engage their members.
We have volunteer positions at every event!

What We Do For Our Community

Good Neighbors: We work with our clients and with all the neighborhood businesses and churches to foster mutual respect and understanding. We work to address grievances that appear on occasion.

Speaking: We provide public speaking to groups of all ages, ranging from elementary to adult. Our goals are to raise awareness, build compassion, and show how to make a difference for our clients.

Service Projects: We host many service projects throughout the year to allow people to learn in a hands-on way while interacting with our clients.

Internships: We provide 13-week full or part time internships for students or second-half adults wanting to learn how to lead in an urban poverty-informed ministry like SYM. The internship can be followed by a year fellowship.

Client Growth in 2014

posted Feb 18, 2015, 7:15 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Feb 18, 2015, 7:15 PM ]

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The number 346 might summarize the most important thing for SYM in 2014. It's the number of times clients shared with us about steps they took forward for themselves in the areas of stability, sobriety, reconnecting with God, and finding a faith home. We don't claim credit for their hard work, but we do love to be a part of celebrating it and encouraging them.

Our definition of stability is moving toward the ability to plan tomorrow. The street may not be a bad place--maybe the best place some of our clients have ever been--but the answer to "can you meet me tomorrow" is usually "I don't know--it depends." The street is unstable. Clients accomplished 227 goals to move toward stability last year. Those include housing, jobs, IDs, medical stability, and more. It's never easy, and it's often two steps forward and one step back. But they are super strong and determined.

Our definition of sobriety revolves around who is in charge--you or the substance/action? Many of our clients experiment with self-treatment drugs, often finding benefits along with the obvious negatives. When they are ready, clients can turn addiction around in amazing non-traditional ways. In 2014, they shared 60 sobriety steps or milestones with us. We never tire of seeing what happens when addiction loses control of a young life!

Reconnecting clients with God is our speciality--our one skill that sets us apart. We listen, we encourage, and we coash as they explore what it means to believe in God, to talk with God, to listen to God, and even to surrender to God and find new life. In 2014, clients achieved 43 goals that ranged from recognizing ongoing sin, becoming Christians for the first time, commencing regular Bible reading, and finding church homes for worship and Bible studies! Christians are know among our clients for helping the poor. But there is no mightier way to help someone that to introduce them (or reintroduce them) to life in Christ.

God moves mightily among our clients. One of the ways he does that is through the loving eyes, smiles, hands, and words of our volunteers. Another way he moves is to crash our plans for ministry and put better plans for the day before us, giving us the opportunity to listen to the right clients, tell the right stories, and encourage the right actions. "To know, love and serve" is what we get to do together so that many may come to know Christ better and a witnessing community is formed on the street and wherever clients may go from there.

What is Our Prayer Walk About?

posted Jan 30, 2015, 10:53 AM by Terry Cole   [ updated Jan 30, 2015, 10:53 AM ]

Prayer walk is about prayer and meeting our clientThe "The 5 Love Languages" is a great book for relationships. I was recently reminded by the pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church that people have prayer languages, too. Some prefer silent prayer. Some prefer praying alone and aloud. Some sing. Some dedicate blocks of time and other pray in short stolen moments between tasks. Some pray driving, or running, or meditating.

Our prayer walks are a chance to walk through the neighborhood we serve. We have chosen 8pm on a Wednesday night because is a very quiet time. Most neighbors are gone. The sun is down (but it's well lit as an urban landscape). The day is done and a new day will come tomorrow. That's the setting for our prayer walk.

We begin at one partner's church location. We explain what happens there and how to pray. We'll ask if anyone wants to pray for the site and activities that will take place there. Then we will walk together along the sidewalks of Guadalupe to a new place.

As we go, we may point out places where people celebrate. Or where people beg. Or where people suffer. Participants will no doubt offer some prayers silently as we answer questions.

We'll stop at locations important to our clients. Businesses that help out. Businesses that are sometime troublesome. We'll offer prayers for the neighborhood.

We'll stop at a place where clients gather in the evening. They will greet us and say hello. They may offer some prayer requests and we can pray with them. We may just have conversation in the calm still evening.

As we walk back to our starting point, we'll answer questions and make suggestions for continued prayer for the community. It's a great way to get to know us and what we do.

Sign-up at our Corporate Prayer Walk page.

Volunteers Make a Difference in 2014

posted Jan 21, 2015, 9:39 AM by Terry Cole   [ updated Jan 21, 2015, 9:40 AM ]

The impact of volunteers is amazing at Street Youth Ministry. They increased our effective budget by more than 50%. They increased our staff hours by almost 100%.

Here is a pie chart showing the impact of hours. In 2014 we had 1.5 staff and a staff member can spend only about 50% of their time working directly with clients without burning out. So that's about 1500 hours of direct time we could provide without volunteers. In 2014, a total of 1,114 volunteers added an amazing 1868 horus working directly with clients. You did more work that we did! Amazing! Volunteers looking our clients in the eyes with the light of Christ shining through makes a really big impact! 

And that's only half the story. Volunteers spent 820 hours making, gathering, or assembling food, 590 hours gathering clothing, cold weather gear, and other non-food items, and 296 hours helping us with administrative tasks (data entry, writing, and design of graphics and publications). That's more than a full time employee. We are simply humbled by the lay ministry our volunteers do as we know, love and serve together so that a witness community is formed around them.

We also want to be a green ministry. We believe in repurposing items people already have whenever possible. We also know that used donated items from people's houses are often better than new cut-rate items. Volunteers made our budget impact grow by more than $66,317. That's almost a 50% lift in our budget from volunteers giving so many in-kind items.

Volunteer gave $7,800 in food items (food from grocery stores destined for compost, sandwiches, chips, sweets, and more). Volunteer gave an incredible $37,700 in non-food items, mainly unwanted clothing from closets, spare cold weather items, and other helpful things they found they could part with from their homes. Churches and organizations donated $19,100 in rooms we can use, parking we use, and computer tools. All these save a great deal on our budget and really improve the quality of service we can provide for our clients to share God's love and build a witnessing community around clients.

Support in 2014

posted Jan 21, 2015, 7:44 AM by Terry Cole

All supporters at SYM make a huge impact. That's a beautiful thing to behold. The impact is very substantial. 

The ministry in 2014 was supported by donations from 136 private donors, 8 churches or church groups, and 2 community groups. The ministry has involvement with 139 churches  at levels ranging across facilities partners, volunteers/donors, service project, publicity and financial. (Data from Jan 2014 to Dec 2014 but not yet including donations in the mail by Dec 31).

The main expenses are missionary staff and food and other costs of direct service. SYM receives no government grants. Incredibly, 612 volunteers and in-kind donors gave 4043 hours and $70,705 of in-kind goods last year. These are huge budget-stretching impacts! (Data from Nov 2013 to Oct 2014).

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