BRUNSWICK

Expect the unexpected could be the motto for The Emergency Action Network, a practical support program that matches homeless students’ personal or housing needs with people who can fill that need.

About 40 students are homeless in the Brunswick school district.

TEAN formed out of a crisis one family experienced this summer, explained Pender Makin, assistant superintendent of schools. All of their belongings were on the side of the road; they had been evicted from the apartment they were renting.

It was raining, and whatever items they had stacked on the roadside were quickly getting soaked. Makin received a phone call from a family member: Did she have a tent to keep the items from getting ruined?

Makin said shortly after taking the family’s call, she happened to run into school board member Sarah Singer, who did have a tent. Problem solved, at least for that moment.

Their post-crisis discussion led to the forming of TEAN, first in the form of a telephone chain. A direct communication system would lead to a matching system, connecting people who were ready to help a family or student in need with someone who could quickly meet that need.

There is no overhead cost nor has TEAN’s establishment become an agency within the school district, Makin explained.

Rather, it’s connecting the spokes to meet “urgent and unusual needs within the community,” she said.

School board Chairman William Thompson and Superintendent Paul Perzanoski highlighted TEAN’s establishment during last week’s board meeting. Brunswick’s TEAN program may be unique to the region.

School board member Teresa Gillis, who also is a TEAN volunteer, spoke of TEAN’s ongoing work and its successes.

The support also can center on housing, as in the case of a teenager who will be able to finish her senior year of high school in Brunswick. A family offered to take in the student.

“Her grades have gotten better and she’s feeling very wanted,” Gillis said.

All information about who is being helped is kept confidential. The needs of students are posted on TEAN’s Facebook page. This is a closed group, meaning a person must request to join the group before being allowed to participate. A recent need of a teenage boy for a new pair of size 13 sneakers is an example of a post by a TEAN volunteer. In short order, the online response led to the match.

“We don’t make referrals. We don’t give out any information about the people we’re seeking help for,” Makin said.

Makin is transitioning from her role as McKinney Vento Act coordinator, preparing another school department employee for the challenge.

“It feels really good to give a very tangible thing to a very tangible need,” Makin said, later adding, “it feels like you really are reaching out a hand to a neighbor.”

All of which combine to make Makin proud to work in the school district.

“I would hope that this model, as wonderful as it is, can be shared with other communities,” said Makin. “It’s not to supplant existing services — it’s supposed to be kind of a stop-gap measure, like a tent in the middle of the afternoon.”



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