Experts & Advocates Condemn Disrespectful Political Attacks on Kyrsten’s Childhood | Sinema for Arizona
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Kyrsten Sinema

Experts & Advocates Condemn Disrespectful Political Attacks on Kyrsten’s Childhood

In response to political attacks questioning Kyrsten Sinema’s childhood experience of homelessness, today homelessness experts and Arizonans issued the following statements:

From David Lujan, former colleague in the Arizona State House: “I spoke to the reporters and told them about how Kyrsten is someone who is refreshingly focused on getting things done. Years ago when we worked together, she told me about the circumstances she experienced, including her time being homeless. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s why she will bridge any divide and take on any challenge so we can get things done for our neighbors – particularly those in need.”

Executive Director of Living United for Change in Arizona Tomas Robles on an “outdated” quote in the original report: “Surprised to see this outdated quote and in an article today. I know Kyrsten and I admire her for turning her childhood hardships into motivation to help others in our state. It’s not a crime to be poor and earn your way to success. At LUCHA, we are knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors to elect leaders like Kyrsten that will ensure that AZ and our country move in the right direction. Now let’s get her elected!”

Statement from Amy Schwabenlender, Executive Director of the Human Services Campus in Phoenix: “Any family living in the conditions Kyrsten was in would undoubtedly be considered homeless. Sadly, these are the kinds of situations we often deal with. There’s no one way someone experiences homelessness: it’s a complex condition characterized by instability, a lack of basic needs – and for many a deep fear of stigma and judgment. It’s wrong to reject anyone’s experience because it doesn’t match a stereotype.”

Statement from Ted Taylor, Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Phoenix: “Family homelessness looks different than what most people think when they hear the word ‘homeless.’ They’re often living in cars, abandoned buildings or wherever they can. Kyrsten’s experience is, sadly, the kind of situation we often encounter.”

Statement from Jacki Taylor, CEO of Save the Family: “Working with homeless families, one of our central goals is to provide access to safe, permanent housing. A family that has to live in a building not meant to serve as a home is in unsafe and unstable conditions, and would be a part of the population we hope to serve. These are the circumstances Kyrsten experienced.”

Statement From Joan Serviss, Executive Director of the Arizona Housing Coalition: “There are many misconceptions about homelessness and one of the most pervasive is that it all looks the same. We know from our work that the way families experience homelessness is different and certainly living in a structure not meant for human habitation – like an old store or gas station – is one way.  Families living in situations like those Kyrsten did face different, but serious, challenges and they deserve support and help to end their homelessness.”

Statement from Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection: “A constant challenge to our work is the fundamental misunderstanding around homelessness. Shelters for families with children are not widely available and many are full. Families and individuals are often left to find their own means, as Kyrsten’s family did. Even the most restrictive federal definition of homelessness encompasses a gas station, which was never intended to be a home even if it has to be used as one. Kyrsten has been a critical voice on this issue and I believe it’s because she’s experienced these challenges not only as a professional in her social work, but also as a child.”


The Sinema campaign has also released statements from the following family members and friends confirming her experience:

From Andy & Marilyn Howard, Kyrsten’s Stepfather and Mother: “Kyrsten is right about this challenging time in our lives. After we married, we left Tucson with the anticipation of a job in Florida, which did not materialize. With no source of income, we lived in Andy’s parents’ closed country gas station without electricity, bathroom facilities or running water. With the assistance of family, friends and our church, we overcame the trials that we faced and moved into a farmhouse less than three years later. It upsets us that Kyrsten has fought to become successful, utilizing the skills she developed because of these challenges, only to have people question it now.”

From Sandy Wiley, Kyrsten’s Aunt: “I remember the gas station Kyrsten was in during this time in her life and, unfortunately, she’s right about the way she describes it. This was a very difficult, very painful time for our family. I am so proud of her: she never let this challenge hold her back. Instead, it drove her to help others who are struggling.”

From Paul Sheldon, Kyrsten’s Stepbrother: “After Kyrsten moved to Florida we saw them in the summer and over holidays. I knew it was tough for her back there. She’s never let what she went through stop her, and anyone who dismisses her experience doesn’t know the first thing about her.”

From Stefanie Bozeman West, Kyrsten’s childhood friend: “Kyrsten was one of my best friends growing up. We spent a lot of time together, both in school and out. We would often have sleepovers at my house and she joined my family in numerous activities. She and her family had kind and generous spirits, despite any struggles they encountered. I definitely remember Kyrsten having to shower at her grandparents because they had no running water. They were all very excited when they moved out of the gas station into their new home. Kyrsten has always been determined and motivated to succeed. Whatever she sets her mind to, she accomplishes with grace and dignity.”

Learn more about Kyrsten’s experience at A Fact Sheet on Kyrsten’s childhood is available here.