EVERETT — More support arrived last Monday for the Everett Public Schools’ roughly 1,200 homeless students.
The district opened its first “Family Resource Center” in Hawthorne Elementary, with staff to help the district’s homeless families find resources. The purpose of the Family Resource Center is to help families navigate the county’s social service programs — which are spread across the school district, county agencies and dozens of nonprofits.
“I think the Family Resource Center is going to help in a lot of ways,” McKinney-Vento Coordinator Amy Perusse said. “For so long, it’s been pretty much just me in this role of facilitating.”
The Family Resource Center has two staff members to coordinate help for the district’s homeless families. Lyn Lauzon, the family resource coordinator, and Conchita Chinchilla, the family support assistant, work directly with families.
“We have partnerships in the community, but what we’re finding is a lack of easy connection to those resources,” Perusse said. “That’s where Lyn and Conchita will come in. They will be able to help connect families with those resources a little bit quicker.”
Many families struggle to find out where they can get help for specific issues, Chinchilla said.
“There is so much and it’s overwhelming,” Chinchilla said. “Here, we can help them as a whole and keep them company while they stand on their feet.”
While people can get social service help by calling 2-1-1, many of the district’s homeless families don’t qualify for emergency shelter services, Perusse said. They must be “literally homeless” to pass the screening, meaning they’re sleeping in their car or on the street.
“A lot of our families are not going to get to that point, because they’re going to do everything they can to keep a roof over their kids’ heads,” Perusse said. “Even if it means staying in a place that’s not safe, or staying in a place that’s uncomfortable, because maybe you’re walking on eggshells and you don’t know how long you’re going to be there.”
The district plans to open another Family Resource Center somewhere in south Everett in the fall. Director of Categorical Programs Chris Fulford said the district is coming up with funding and looking at locations.
“Everett is such a long district,” Fulford said. “We really want our families to be able to access these centers, and if you’re down in Mill Creek coming all the way up to Hawthorne, it’s a bit of a stretch.”
The center is a place for agencies to meet with families. It also has work stations and printers. Parents can print housing paperwork. Students can fill out job applications. The center also has basic necessities to send home with people, like food and clothes.
If students need more help than one school can offer, or parents have children at multiple schools, staff can refer them to Lauzon and Chinchilla. In the past, parents worked with multiple people in every school to find help. If their children were in different schools, it meant as many as eight people per school were helping families.
“It gets complicated fast,” Perusse said.
Hawthorne Elementary School is at 1110 Poplar Street in Everett. Family Resource Center Coordinator Lyn Lauzon can be reached at
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.