When Things Get Messy

When Things Get Messy

"We have the privilege of jumping into the messy parts of life with young people—and we do it because we’ve had to wrestle with the reality of our own messes too.  It’s from a place of shared brokenness, shared need, that we can enter into life with young people. The beauty of showing up to work at SYM is that we get to set aside any pretense of life being put-together and perfect."

Looking Up


I get frustrated sometimes when hiking because I have to pay so much attention to my feet. If I don’t keep my eyes down I will (and certainly have) tripped.

This reminds me of how young adults here at SYM explain their situations, that they can’t look up to see where they’re going because they are so focused on what is in front of them.

They’re so focused on not tripping, on meeting the basic necessities of each day, that they can get used to keeping their head down, and then they get stuck.

Case management is a chance for youth to sit down with SYM staff one on one and gain perspective. As a case manager I work with young adults to make to-do lists, we make phone calls that are exhausting and full of long wait times, I drive them to appointments, we research together how you get a Wisconsin ID replacement when you’re very far from Wisconsin. We cheerlead accomplishments, and listen to stories. We get to know young people and what makes them unique, and we help young people identify what direction they want to go.

If we only ever looked down at our feet, we’d never get to enjoy or marvel at the little things in life that add up to be the big things. We’d never get to pick what way we are walking. Case management allows space for these things to happen in the lives of homeless young adults.

Written by Emma Fix, Case Manager

A Driving Force: Compassion

By Katie Juhl, Friend of SYM

Webster defines compassion as “the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.”

Redefining Realness, by Janet Mock, really drove me to think about compassion and what it means to be compassionate towards others. Redefining Realness is Janet’s story of growing up as a young transgender girl of color in Hawaii. It provides an incredible amount of insight into what she and other transgender individuals face in accepting themselves. Accepting themselves is just the tip of what they must face as they then deal with others reactions. Many times this results in them being alienated from those around them and being homeless. She addresses why many end up on the streets or in prostitution as a means of survival. Hearing her story made me think about what it is that I could do to help. Again the thought of compassion came to mind and that this would make a difference in how transgender people are treated.

This was further raised to me when I read an article about a potential ballot measure that would look to change rules regarding the use of restrooms in Washington by transgender individuals. My first reaction was sadness and then I started to think about how that ballot measure might differ if we all challenged ourselves to “dial up” our level of compassion.

Imagine what it would be like if what bathroom you were or were not able to use was a day-to-day concern.
Imagine what it would be like if you had to wonder about your safety on a nightly basis.
Imagine what it would be like if you had to find the strength to tell those around you that you were going to undergo a transition.

All of these are incredibly challenging things to have to go through, and if they are done in a situation where people aren’t displaying compassion towards you, they could quickly become insurmountable.

It’s this compassion for others that drives me to support the work that SYM does. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be on the street or to be dealing with some of the “imagines” above. Aside from the lack of basic needs being met, the manner in which so many are treated is heartbreaking. Through my sister and brother in-laws work with SYM I have learned much about what might drive someone to be homeless which includes young, transgender individuals. When they made the decision to come out, they were quickly kicked out or worse. The stories break my heart and it is this heartbreak that fuels my desire to help. I feel incredibly fortunate that I am able to financially support SYM so that they are able to approach each and every youth with compassion, love, and to help them create a better future.