Providing help, hope for homeless students in Marysville schools

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2020 9:42am
  • News

By Steve Powell

spowell@marysvilleglobe.com

MARYSVILLE – One child went to school without shoes.

Five others lived with two adults in a camper in a church parking lot for months.

Older kids leave home and sleep on a friend’s couch or bedroom floor because it’s better than being at home.

They are among the more than 500 homeless students in the Marysville School District, of which 166 are “unaccompanied youth.”

Deanna Bashour is tasked with connecting with them, then getting them services that will help them be successful in school. Larisa Koenig is working with her on a new mentor program that will connect community members with homeless kids to show them somebody cares.

In her fourth year with the McKinney-Vento program, Bashour said working with the kids can be heart-breaking.

“I’ve cried myself, often,” she said, adding community donations are a big help as the program is an unfunded federal mandate.

Bashour said she connects well with the kids because she went to high school here in the 1990s.

“I was not in a good place at the time,” she said, adding one of her teachers, Cheryl Hogle, “Saved my life. That lady left footprints on my heart forever.”

Now retired, Hogle is the reason Bashour has been working with kids for 15 years. “She was my saving grace who taught me I was worth it,” Bashour said, adding, “I want to be the someone I never had.”

McKinney-Vento is a temporary resource for kids in transition so when everything else is chaotic their school routine can be as normal as possible.

“This minimizes their trauma and allows them to focus on some aspects of school,” Bashour said.

Fall is the busiest time of year as families seek shelter after camping during the nice summer months. Last fall, a mom and two sons were camping in a tent along the Machias River. Several families were in RVs parked in driveways. Food, water and blankets were taken to a family of three who were living in an SUV, including one who was severely disabled. There are also families that drive around in their cars, sleep where they can and clean up at local rest stops.

Homeless growing

When Bashour started there were 216 students in the program. Then it climbed to 317, 420 and now 508. Part of that is people are more aware of it. But another factor is the lack of affordable housing locally. Bashour wants to break down the stereotype that people are homeless because of mental illness or drug abuse. She works with people who hold down two jobs and still can’t afford to live anywhere.

“These are working families who still can’t make ends meet,” she said. Some are homeless because the rent is raised, they can’t afford it, they move out, but they can’t come up with first- and last-months’ rent for a new place. Others are homeless because of flooding or a fire. “A car accident can change your life in minutes,” Bashour added.

Unfunded mandate

While unfunded, the program is given Title 1 money based on poverty levels. But Bashour said that pays only for very basic supplies.

Money in McKinney-Vento can only pay for educational expenses, so sometimes she rallies co-workers to help.

“We provide everything we can,” she said, such as caps and gowns to graduating homeless.

Bashour said students can be helped with transportation, clothing, shelter, housing, medical resources, backpacks, supplies and hygiene kits. Funds can also be used to pay for fines, fees and meals.

Of the students, she said, “We want to make sure they don’t stink, but they have clean clothes.”

Bashour’s main role is to help homeless families navigate the system and connect with social services. She wants to network and find more community partnerships to work with so more students can be helped.

Two families she’s worked with recently moved to Miracle House. She said more similar housing is needed locally.

One of her favorite stories is of a senior who was sleeping at Jennings Park. She helped him get a bus pass so he could get to and from school. He ended up getting his GED and now has a job.

“He knew someone cared,” she said. “Kids are so resilient.”

Mentorship program

Bashour and Koenig are excited about the new mentorship program at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. “They need adult role models,” Koenig said of homeless students, adding she’s seeking up to 100 volunteers.

By pairing homeless students with responsible adults, the district hopes to see their absenteeism go down and their grades up. Volunteers will meet at the school where the child attends for about an hour a week. No contact is allowed outside of school. MSD is working with LINC NW & HOPE Mentoring on the program. School district employees, along with police and fire personnel, are being asked first since they already have passed background checks. Mentors need to be good listeners and provide comfort on a consistent basis. They will be matched on hobbies and interests, along with potential careers. This year the district also has started a graduation success program to help at-risk seniors stay on track. Last year, just 18 of 60 homeless seniors graduated. This year, liaison Rosemary Peterson works one on one with them to help them navigate college systems, introduce them to apprenticeship options, trades programs, and what they need to gain work skills. “Most of these kids are first generation to complete high school and go on to college or another career path. This is the first step to implementing a tool kit these kids can use post high school to break the cycle and not become a statistic in our adult homeless population,” Bashour said.

She added: “By the time these families get to me or their student’s counselor for help, they are in pretty dire need. By building relationships with them and connecting them with the partnerships we have in place, I get to shine the little ray of hope they momentarily forgot about while their life is in chaos.

“I get to hug them and let them know we care, and we will do what we can for as long as it takes.”

—————————

How to help

To donate: Make checks out to the Marysville School District McKinney-Vento Trust.

To mentor: Contact Larisa Koenig at larisa_koenig@msd25.org

To partner: Contact Deanna Bashour at deanna_bashour@msd25.org. Partners already include: Salvation Army, Marysville Food Bank, YMCA, Housing Hope, United Way, Interfaith Shelter, Word of Life Women’s Ministry, Marysville United Methodist Church, 10th Street Boys and Girls Club, Kung Fu 4 Kids, Cocoon House and more.

More in News

Fences have been put up around Marysville playgrounds to keep kids off. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville leaders concerned as (almost) everything’s closing

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – Within hours of Gov. Jay Inslee’s… Continue reading

DOUGLAS BUell/Staff Photos
                                Lead cook Keina Gowins with Presidents Elementary hands out free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches to students and parents outside the school Wednesday. Presidents and AHS serve as central kitchen sites for preparing meals, which starting next week will expand to 12 delivery sites from Silvana to Oso. Right, Arlington Food Bank executive director Carla Gastineau and Mike Simpson, food bank board president and owner of Arlington Grocery Outlet, partnered with the district with their Meals Til Monday program, and gave a woman a box of donated food while at Presidents.
Arlington students won’t go hungry during the COVID-19 school closures

ARLINGTON – Arlington schools are closed through April 24 to help fight… Continue reading

People gather to pick up special allergy meals before leaving Lakewood High School on Wednesday in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Districts taking meals to students since schools are closed

By Stephanie Davey The Herald LAKEWOOD — Children wearing pajamas stood outside… Continue reading

Jon Nehring
Letter about coronavirus from Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring

This is an edited version of a letter Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring… Continue reading

Briefly

Beware of coronavirus scams SEATTLE – U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran is… Continue reading

Jennifer Thompson, left, and her father Ron Thompson secure a new remembrance plaque to the Oso slide site gate on Sunday, near Oso. Ron Thompson handcrafts a new plaque for the gate every year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Community remembers Oso slide victims, survivors

By Ben Watanabe The Herald OSO — The power of remembering the… Continue reading

Inslee: Stay home for 2 weeks

By Jerry Cornfield and Zachariah Bryan The Herald OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay… Continue reading

Scott Beebe hands out Chromebooks to people in their cars. (Steve Powell/Staff Photos)
Marysville parents anxious to pick up school materials for kids

By Steve Powell spowell@marysvilleglobe.com MARYSVILLE – A few days ago Marysville schools… Continue reading

Most Read