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Marysville School District staff member Deanna Bashour pulls out items from a hygiene pack available at the district's new Connections Center during a tour on Oct. 15.

 

Homeless students in the Marysville School District now have a center to stop by for support and services at the recently opened Connections Center.

The new center is meant to assist students and parents who may not have many other options to turn to.

"This is specifically to meet the needs of students and families who are experiencing some form of homelessness," said Andrea Wyatt, the district's director of Title I, Learning Assistance Programs, McKinney-Vento and Foster Care.

While at the center they can shower, do laundry and receive school supplies and hygiene supplies.

"The big thing for our homeless youth is the shower and laundry services because that is an overarching need," said Wyatt.

There are also printing services and internet access available to students.

The center is also in contact with local homelessness services and can connect them with other organizations when needed.

"We can't provide housing but we can direct them to Salvation Army who can provide housing," said Wyatt.

The push for the center began a few years ago when Deanna Bashour, the district's McKinney-Vento and Foster Care liaison, wanted a more centralized location for helping those dealing with homelessness.

"Parents would come to me and pour their heart out to me in a hallway because there was nowhere to take them," said Bashour. "And then I would have to say 'can you wait 20 minutes while I run around getting everything you need.'"

Some supplies were kept in the district's warehouses while others were stored in a closet in the administrative building.

She was inspired by Cocoon House's U-Turn Center to have a more holistically designed and centralized location.

"I just wanted it all in one place," said Bashour.

The district usually has a number of homeless students that could benefit from a stable location to help them, said Wyatt.

"Many of them are couch-surfing. Some are sleeping in a tent or in the woods," she said.

Part of the inspiration for the center came from one student who was sleeping on district campuses.

"We actually started talking about this because there was a student sleeping in one of the [portable toilets] on one of our campuses," said Wyatt. "We thought 'we know we can't offer them a place to sleep, but why can't we connect them to services and offer them a place to shower.'"

The Connections Center is n an office that used to be a portable.

When the portable was being moved, Bashour ended up proposing her idea and although it didn't end up being created right away, eventually it did.

"My director was continually greasing that wheel and then they finally did give it to us," said Bashour.

The Connections Center is tucked away on district property, purposefully hidden to help parents and students remain anonymous.

"The location is intentional," said Bashour, "so they're not humiliated coming and going."

Wyatt said the city of Marysville doesn't have a lot of centers that focus specifically on homelessness, besides one temporary shelter meant for women with children.

"We don't have a good facility for people in this kind of need in our community," she said. "Other than that, families have to go to Everett and some of those outside areas."

She hopes that the center can fill some of that local need.

"We've already been doing this work, but not at this level and not in a place where they are anonymous and in a space that is safe and comfortable for them," said Wyatt.

The center does not run on a drop-in basis and only takes appointments.

"We rely heavily on our building principals and counselors to make appointments," said Wyatt. She said they can be contacted through the district office to set up appointments as well.

They plan to take appointments from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"We're pretty flexible with our schedules," said Wyatt.

The program is supported through a federal McKinney-Vento grant, which  is meant to focus on equity and equality, especially around homeless students in schools.

"We've set up a McKinney-Vento trust for our school district as well," said Wyatt. "So that people can donate funds directly for that trust that can be used for things like this."

The center has been open for a couple of weeks now and staff said they are happy to be able to provide this kind of service to those in need.

"The kids that have come in here, their faces are lit up and I can't explain what it means for these kids," said Bashour. "I like being able to bring in a family and showing them everything we can do and just have them leave with clothes, hygiene and hope."

 

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Sally

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