Who is Homeless?
Schools use the definition of homeless provided in section 11434a of the McKinney-Vento Act. It states that any person who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence is homeless. While the law mandates the criteria of fixed, regular, and adequate to assess housing, it also provides several examples of homelessness. Sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason is the most common form of homelessness experienced by school-age children in the United States, with 75% of all homeless children living in doubled-up conditions (NCHE, 2013). Staying in emergency, family, domestic violence, and transitional living shelters is the next most common type of homelessness experienced by students. When faced with homelessness, some families are able to stay in hotels or motels; living in a hotel or motel due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations is the third most common type of homelessness reported by public schools. Many children and youth also live in unsheltered situations, which can include campgrounds or public places not meant for housing, such as parks, bus or train stations, and condemned or abandoned buildings. Unsheltered homeless children and youth accounted for more than 41,000 students identified by schools during the 2011-2012 school year (NCHE, 2013).
In addition to providing a definition of homeless, the McKinney-Vento Act defines unaccompanied youth as youth who are "not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian" [42 U.S.C. § 11434a(6)]. Unaccompanied youth make up a much larger segment of the homeless population than many people realize. While not all unaccompanied youth lack fixed, regular, and adequate housing, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied youth qualified as homeless during the 2011- 2012 school year (NCHE, 2013).
Potential Warning Signs of Homelessness
Possible warning signs of homelessness among school-age children and youth include:
• a lack of educational continuity;
• school attendance and transportation problems;
• poor health and nutrition;
• poor hygiene;
• lack of privacy and personal space after school;
• social and behavioral concerns; and
• reactions or statements by the parent, guardian, child, or youth.
For more information, visit http://center.serve.org/ nche/nche/warning.html.
What is the McKinney-Vento Act and how does it help?
During the 1980s, the magnitude and impact of homelessness on all segments of society became pronounced. Increasing homelessness among families with children and youth became particularly concerning as more was learned about the problems students face when juggling homelessness and academic demands. For example, students experiencing homelessness often change schools frequently. This can impact learning as students must adjust to new environments, new curricula, and new teachers and classmates, while still learning the same information other students are expected to master. The loss of a home can be traumatic, leaving children and youth with tumultuous feelings that can impact their social and intellectual well-being. Limited access to food, medical care, and basic school supplies can also impact performance in the classroom. The McKinney-Vento Act addresses educational challenges created by homelessness and guarantees homeless students the right to enroll, attend, and succeed in school. The law places the responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of homeless students on states and school districts. McKinney-Vento eligible students have the right to:
• enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment;
• enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents;
• enroll in the local attendance area school or continue attending their school of origin (the school they attended when permanently housed or the school in which they were last enrolled), if that is the parent’s, guardian’s, or unaccompanied youth’s preference and is feasible;1
receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if requested by the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth;
• receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students, according to the student’s need; and
• not be stigmatized or segregated on the basis of homeless status.
If you believe that one of your students is homeless you need to report this to the Elementary Principal who will make the determination for eligibility.