Q. Who is homeless?
A. Anyone who, due to a lack of housing, lives:
- In a shelter
- In a motel
- In a vehicle
- In a campground
- On the street
- Doubled-up with relatives or friends due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
Q. Where can homeless children and youth attend school?
A. Homeless children and youth can choose to attend either of the following.
- The school of origin: the school that the child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled.
- The local attendance area school: any public school that nonhomeless students who live in the attendance area in which the child or youth is actually living are eligible to attend
Q. Can students experiencing homelessness be denied enrollment for lacking paperwork that is normally required for enrollment?
A. No. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, children and youth experiencing homelessness have the right to immediate enrollment, even if lacking paperwork normally required for enrollment, such as:
- Birth Certificate
- Immunization or other health/medical records
- Proof of residence
- Proof of guardianship
Enrollment tip: In instances where paper work is lacking, the following strategies may be used:
- Birth certificate: The school district can assist in getting a copy of the student’s birth certificate or accept a signed Affidavit for Missing Enrollment Documentation.
- Immunization and/or other health/medical records: The school district can assist in getting copies of the student’s records and/or assist in getting any needed immunizations.
- Previous academic records: The school district can contact the student’s previous school/district and arrange for the immediate transfer of the student’s records.
- Proof of guardianship: The school district can accept a signed Caregiver Authorization Form.
- Proof of residency: The school district can accept a signed affidavit stating that the family is staying in temporary accommodations.
According to federal law, while enrollment documentation is being gathered, the homeless student’s enrollment and full participation in school must continue uninterrupted.
Q. Can school districts educate children and youth experiencing homelessness in separate schools (e.g., classes located on shelter sites)?
A. Homelessness is not a reason to separate students from their housed peers. Students in homeless situations must not be isolated from the mainstream school environment except in a few limited circumstances defined in the McKinney-Vento legislation.
Q. What services must school districts provide to children and youth in homeless situations?
A. The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to provide services to students experiencing homelessness that are comparable to services provided to other students in the school district. Homeless children and youth must have access to any educational services for which they qualify, including special education, gifted education, free and reduced-lunch programs, before and after-school activities, and Title l, Part A, services. The students are not to be segregated or stigmatized.
Q. Can Title l, Part A, funds be used to address the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness?
A. Yes. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, children and youth experiencing homelessness automatically qualify for Title l, Part A, support whether students attend school wide, targeted assistance, or non-Title l schools. Title l must coordinate services in order to promote academic achievement of homeless students.
Q. May children and youth experiencing homelessness attending non-Title l schools be served under Title, Part A?
Yes. Title l, Part A funds must be reserved to provide comparable services to eligible homeless children who might attend schools not receiving Title l, Part a, funding. This may include providing educationally related support services to children in shelters.
Q. Are children experiencing homelessness eligible to enroll in preschool?
A. Yes. Young children who are homeless should have the same access to public preschool programs as young children who are housed. Head Start and Even Start my reserve slots for students experiencing homelessness to avoid waiting list delays that occur when children arrive after the school year has begun.
Q. How should special education programs serve students experiencing homelessness?
A. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was amended in 2004 to facilitate the timely assessment, appropriate service provision and placement, and continuity of services for children and youth with disabilities who experience homelessness and high mobility. Schools and school districts are required to complete initial evaluations within specific timeframes, ensure that assessments of children who transfer to a new school district are coordinated with prior schools, and provided children who have current IEPs and transfer to a new school district during the school year with services immediately. For unaccompanied youth, IDEA specifically requires LEAs to appoint surrogate parents.
Q. What academic concerns commonly impact students in homeless situations?
A. Due to changing schools and the stress of being homeless, students may fall behind academically, causing learning lags and gaps that can be more than four months. Students may not have quiet places to study or access to school supplies, books, or computers. Students need to know of study halls or after-school tutoring availability. If a child was receiving special education services or was participating in gifted and talented programs, the continuity of instruction needs to be maintained.
Q. What are some common health-related issues affecting students experiencing homelessness?
A. Students who are homeless are often at an increased risk of becoming ill due to their living conditions. If the student becomes sick, they often have no quiet place to rest. These students are more likely than their peers to get the flu, have stomach ailments, have respiratory problems, and visit the emergency room. School nurses can help by offering referrals for screenings, maintaining a clothes closet, assisting parents in filling out forms, and assuring that students are aware of the school’s procedure for participating in the fee and reduced lunch program.