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.

Street youth’s anger turns to hope

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:36 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:36 PM ]

This young black street youth held the Hope candle high after lighting it at our annual Christmas party. Angry, disenfranchised and some􀆟mes behaving badly, he would fit in with many of the headlines of the past year. Yet he learned to light his candle and guard it carefully from being snuffed out by all he sees in the world. Such a gesture would have been unimaginable just weeks before, but now he was leading part of our worship service. Headlines don't tell us everything about race issues.

To support our mission, go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org,

Does our work really matter?

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:32 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:33 PM ]

Last month, volunteers from a local so􀅌ware company brought snacks to one of our street outreaches. As they handed out the items, one of them expressed doubt that this activity had much impact on clients. Later, we ran into a client we’ll call “Brad,” who first came to us as a drug addict looking for cash. He was unhealthy, and sores covered his legs. On this day, the sores were gone and he was quick to share his testimony about how SYM had changed his life. He said he had been drug‐free for two months, and he credited SYM for being there for him and listening. This helped the volunteers to clearly see what street ministry is all about. Later on, some volunteers expressed surprise that we knew many clients by name and had relationships with them beyond
just giving food. 

You can help impact clients, too! Go to volunteer.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

When all else fails, you just stand

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:29 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:29 PM ]

If missionaries could reach everyone with the good news of Jesus’ grace and love, our jobs would be easy. But some􀆟mes we cannot. Recently, at the end of a cold and rainy day, a friend led a young man, new to the streets, to see me. He was looking for a safe place to spend the night; as I laid out several options, he found reasons to decline each one. He didn’t look like an addict, but I could tell he was affected by a mental condition. I asked about his family and friends. His mother was dead, he was estranged from his dad, and his sisters lived out of state. He considered his friends “evil.” I asked about his faith, and he identified as a Christian but doubted he was truly a beloved child of God. We prayed together for safety, deliverance, comfort and guidance. He finally thanked me and left, intending to call a friend who offered him a tent. I prayed that he stay safe, find a way to surrender and accept grace, find the peace that surpasses all understanding. It was all I could do as we just stood, in the cold and the rain.

Help us serve God’s lost children. Go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

She became a ‘newer version of me’

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:25 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:25 PM ]

At SYM, we pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of our street-dependent clients. Two days before Thanksgiving, we saw an answer for one of them. A volunteer from one of our sponsoring churches cooked us a wonderful turkey dinner, and other volunteers served it at our Tuesday Bible Study. Afterward, a young client we’ll call Ashley walked up to the missionaries and apologized for some rowdy behavior by first‐􀆟me clients. “I'm sorry how they challenged you,” she said. “I feel bad because I used to be the person who tested and challenged you like that. The new me — or the newer version of me I'm becoming — doesn't do that. I s􀆟ck up for what you say and do. I look forward to Bible study." It was mind‐blowing to see how God was working in her heart. Her story of becoming free from bad habits step by step has been encouraging. She also told us she had begun to pray regularly. Only the Holy Spirit could have done that. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” — 2 Cor. 5:17. We're so grateful!

To support our mission, go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

Old Shoes and New Hope

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:21 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:21 PM ]


Have shoes you no longer need? Sharing them can make a difference in someone’s life. For delivery instructions, go to dropoff.StreetYouthMinistry.

A 19-year-old homeless traveler wearing flip-flops approached us, saying “I haven't been able to find shoes.” A few minutes later, we were walking together to the SYM office to look through donated shoes. On the way, we got to know Gage a bit and asked "How can we be praying for you?" He deflected with "I'm good." In the office he tried on shoes and found a pair that fit. As we kept building trust, Gage shared his dream of going to college. We gave advice on how to go to ACC using grants available to him. Gage got excited! As he turned to leave, we asked again about a prayer request. This time he said, “Help to forgive my father.” We talked about forgiveness and God's role in it. Within a month, Gage was in class and getting counseling for his anger! This spiritual and practical ministry was possible because volunteers take time to donate practical adult shoes they no longer need.

For delivery instructions, go to dropoff.StreetYouthMinistry.org

A light will shine for her

posted Mar 8, 2016, 3:16 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:16 PM ]


We hold a Christmas party for our street youth every year, and this year the theme was centered on the four Advent candles, representing Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. This client, who recently shook off an addiction, loves purple and has praying that God make her spirit that color. She now thinks about prayer more often. And here, she takes the purple candle of Hope and lights the white candle of Peace with it. She now prays regularly and never misses Bible study! She is figuring out her future.
We’ve heard from many other clients who are doing the same. We’re just a small local ministry, yet we see national and world issues reflected in our clients’ lives every day. Loving our clients unconditionally is why SYM is here all year – no ma􀆩er who they are, what has been done to them, or what they are doing.

To support our mission, go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org,

A Magical Journey of Faith

posted Mar 8, 2016, 2:55 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 3:10 PM ]

We recently rewarded clients who a􀆩ended at least three indoor events in one month with a field trip to see a magic
show! The magician was amazing, and as he performed his illusions, he told how he was successfully treated for
leukemia, and he described his faith journey through that experience. As a special treat, a few regular volunteers also
were invited, and they helped chaperone. Clients enjoyed the magic show and the Chris􀆟an content. One client gave
her life to Christ during the evening! We had ice cream afterward and talked about how to choose a church home.

To support our mission, go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

‘Cirque’ outing proves inspiring

posted Mar 8, 2016, 2:49 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 2:51 PM ]

Sometimes, our best witnesses are former clients. Several of these youths listened and learned. Join us by giving at donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

Our clients often say their life on the street is boring, so when a friend offered 25 tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show at the Irwin Center, we jumped at the chance to take a field trip. We took a mix of clients who we believed were ready to make changes in their lives, along with some chaperones, volunteers and former clients who had left the street successfully. Everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed at the amazing acrobatics and glitzy showmanship. Afterward, one client told his social worker, "I decided that very night to go to college. It changed my life." Two attendees were in community college within weeks and a third has since joined them. It was a combination of the testimony from SYM's recovering clients on the bus ride and feeling the “full-of-life" performance of the circus troupe. At least four lives changed direction significantly from the field trip! We try hard to seize opportunities like this for those engaging in life change.

To support our mission, go to donate.StreetYouthMinistry.org.

Client Growth in 2014

posted Feb 18, 2015, 7:15 PM by Terry Cole   [ updated Mar 8, 2016, 2:30 PM ]

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 specialty--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.

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