Brandy Sincyr: From Homelessness to Advocate and Academic Success

Brandy SincyrThis article was written in December 2012 when Brandy was an intern at PSESD.  For a more updated profile on Brandy, please check out Firesteel’s blog here.

From the age of 14 to 19, Brandy Sincyr, her mother and sister became homeless after escaping an abusive stepfather. During that time, she and her family lived at the YWCA, Helping Hands, and other transitional housing. Brandy eventually lived on her own staying with friends, “couch surfing,” and seeking a safe place to sleep.

“School has always been a place of stability,” commented Brandy. “I was fortunate to attend Tacoma School for the Arts, had access to a metro bus pass, and a small circle of trusted friends. The other constant for me was a goal to attend a four-year college.”

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Being a Homeless Liaison

Being a Homeless Liaison
by Pamela Kinnaird

I came back to work for the 2013-2014 school year during the last week of August, to find an over-capacity warning from my email wizard and the blinking light on my phone indicating that I had an abundance of phone messages that needed my urgent attention.

When a family is in crisis, everything that affects them is urgent and anxiety-ridden and many times, painful as well.

My name is Pamela Kinnaird and I’m the Homeless Education Liaison for the Shoreline School District.  We are a relatively small school district, when compared to Seattle or Tacoma, but the needs of our growing homeless populations are the same; stable housing, food, medical and dental and mental health care, clothing, continuity in education and a kind voice on the other end of the telephone.

During the 2012-2013 school year, I set up several programs and resources to help our burgeoning homeless population and to bring more consistency in communication and collaboration between adjoining school districts.

  1. The Emergency Feeding Program of King County. I put bags of emergency food in each school with nurses or my McKinney-Vento Contacts for families in immediate crisis.
  2. Vouchers for necessary items, both new and used from a community grant funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Homeless families can go shopping at Deseret Industries for clothing, new beds, new bedding, furniture, housewares and more.
  3. New shoes at each school for students in crisis, to supplement the emergency clothing that our nurses have on hand.
  4. A District-wide policy paper on what resources the Shoreline District has to assist students with class fees, iPad fees, ASB cards, sports fees/uniforms, tutoring, etc.
  5. I am a member of the CRT, Community Resource Team that meets monthly.  Our group consists of school personnel, Human Services organizations in the community, Shoreline City leaders and community and faith based organizations who all share their resources and collaborate to help the community.
  6. I initiated regular meetings between other Homeless Liaisons from surrounding districts so that we might share information, policies and create uniform transportation requests and have a more seamless process in getting our homeless students transported in the shortest amount of time in order to comply with the McKinney-Vento Act.

Each day as a Homeless Liaison brings unique challenges.  Last year we had a mom sleeping in her car with her two young sons and their hamster.  As a human being, as a mother and as a person who simply wants to help, the first reaction in my head is to say, “Oh, come sleep at my house, use my hot water and I’ll feed you!” Unfortunately, that is not something I am able to provide within the scope of my position—and if I did, where would it end?  I cannot provide for 300 families.

So I did what I could for this small family. I met mom in the parking lot of a grocery store with four bags of emergency food that could be eaten without benefit of a stove or an oven.  I encouraged her to make sure she was parking in a safe place at night and I gave her information on shelters, housing and other resources within the community.

Each family in a homeless crisis is different, each story is heartbreaking and I do my very best to be the calm at the center of their storm by giving them resources, options and a listening ear.

Each day when I come into work, my phone is lit up with messages and my inbox is full of email.  This work is as rewarding as it is heartbreaking, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Photo of youths

I am a youth…

Who wants to continue his or her education and fulfill my promise as learner. I need information about how I can continue to excel at my school with the support of my teachers, school staff, family and other service providers. It is important for my success that I understand my rights as it relates to my education and overall well-being.
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Caregivers

I am a caregiver…

Who cares about supporting my child in reaching his or her full potential. This goal involves providing stability in the school he or she attends, securing resources for food, shelter, and medical attention, and developing my own abilities to advocate for myself and my family.

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I am an educator…

I am an educator…

Who is committed to ensuring all students succeed no matter what obstacles he or she faces. My goal is to effectively engage my students in his or her learning once some critical basic needs are met with the partnership and support of our school and community. I will also reach out to students’ families with ideas and strategies they can use to support their students.

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I am a provider…

I am a provider…

I am a provider…

Who will tirelessly work to remove barriers that may prevent students and their families from getting the services they need and deserve. I will inform and educate those that I serve to fully understand their rights so that they may take an active role in improving their lives. I will encourage partnership will all stakeholders in order to best support our families.

If you provide support to homeless families, children, or youth, who reside or use the services of a transitional, domestic violence, youth, or day shelter, it is important that you identify homeless families and inform them of their educational rights under McKinney-Vento.

 

I am a provider…

I am a provider…

I am a provider…

I am a provider…

Who will tirelessly work to remove barriers that may prevent students and their families from getting the services they need and deserve. I will inform and educate those that I serve to fully understand their rights so that they may take an active role in improving their lives. I will encourage partnership will all stakeholders in order to best support our families.

If you provide support to homeless families, children, or youth, who reside or use the services of a transitional, domestic violence, youth, or day shelter, it is important that you identify homeless families and inform them of their educational rights under McKinney-Vento.

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