What is Homeless Education?

McKinney- Vento Act and Title I, Part A

In the United States, more than 1 million public school kids lack a personal space to call their own, a desk at which to complete their homework, and a bed to sleep in at night. The National Center for Homeless Education has compiled state data collecting mandated by federal law, showing that the proportion of homeless pupils has risen over the past ten years.

Homeless Education provides information and resources for homeless children and youths and their right to enroll, attend, participate fully, and succeed in school.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act), passed into law in 1987, is federal legislation that ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youths experiencing homelessness. It requires all local educational agencies (LEAs) to ensure that homeless students have access to the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschools, as provided to other children and youths.

The McKinney-Vento Act defines LEAs as public school districts, direct-funded and locally funded charter schools, and county offices of education. It also authorizes the funding for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program. The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes:

  • Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
  • Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above

Both the McKinney-Vento Act and Title I, Part A call for cross-program cooperation to better identify and meet the needs of students who are homeless. According to the McKinney-Vento ACT, each school district must designate a local homeless education liaison to act as the district’s primary point of contact for homeless education and to oversee the implementation of the Act in all of the district’s schools. Local liaisons’ duties include coordinating and collaborating with other school staff members in charge of delivering services to homeless children.

School districts are required by Title I, Part A to set aside enough Title I money in order to offer homeless students services that are on par with those offered to students in Title I schools. These services can include offering educationally-related support services to kids living in shelters and other places where homeless kids might reside. Homeless set-aside funds may be used to provide similar services to homeless students who do not attend a Title I school, but they may also be used to provide services to homeless students, including those attending Title I schools, that are not typically provided to other Title I students, such as funding the local liaison position and funding transportation to and from the school of origin.

Two principles govern the usage of homeless set-aside funds:
  1. The services must be reasonable and necessary to assist students experiencing homelessness to take advantage of educational opportunities.

  2. The funds must be used only as a last resort when funds or services are not available from other public or private sources.


The common goal of Title I, Part A, and McKinney-Vento programs is to identify and meet the educational needs of these students, who frequently have significant needs and face particular educational barriers. Despite this, students who are homeless frequently have unique educational barriers and needs, which makes these programs complimentary. Cross-program alliances can considerably enhance the academic performance of students who are homeless while also satisfying the legal criteria for cooperation in each program.

Unfortunately, the two guiding principles that determine how homeless funds are used for students who are experiencing homelessness frequently do not meet all of the needs of the students. Because of this, it’s crucial for communities and companies to give to districts so they can use donated monies that aren’t considered federal dollars to help with student needs that aren’t often covered by federal funds.

Homeless Education Liaisons

What are the responsibilities of the local liaison for homeless children and youths?

The local homeless liaison serves as one of the primary contacts between homeless families and school staff, district personnel, shelter workers, and other service providers. Every LEA, whether or not it receives a McKinney-Vento subgrant, is required to designate a local liaison. The liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Get Involved

Merchant Marketing

If you gift $250 or more to a school district to aid homeless students, whether you’re a small, medium-sized, or large business that offers discounts, we will promote your brand.

Ways to Support

There are numerous methods for people and neighborhood businesses to support initiatives for homeless education. Coming together and acting are the first steps.

Find a School District

The Homeless Liaison directory lists ALL public schools in the US. Included are state-by-state estimates of the number of pupils homeless and their needs to assist students.


The LEA must designate a Homeless Liaison and ensure that the liaison is able to carry out

 his/her duties as legally required. The liaison must:

  1. Ensure homeless children and youth are properly identified and immediately enrolled.

  2. Review/revise local policies and practices to ensure that students are not segregated or stigmatized (by school or program) on the basis of their homeless status.

  3. Participate in professional development and technical assistance activities and ensure that school personnel providing McKinney-Vento services receive professional development and support.

  4. Assist unaccompanied homeless youth with enrollment, school placement, and obtaining records.

  5. Inform parents, guardians, and unaccompanied homeless youth of educational opportunities available to ensure homeless students have equal access to magnet and summer schools, career technical education, advanced placement, and other LEA programs.

  6. Disseminate public notice of McKinney-Vento rights in locations frequented by parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth, in a manner and form understandable to parents, guardians, and youth.

  7. Ensure that preschool-aged homeless children and their families have access to and receive services, if eligible, under LEA-administered preschool programs (may include Head Start, Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and other LEA preschool programs).

  8. Remove enrollment barriers, including barriers related to a missed application or enrollment deadlines; fines or fees; records required for enrollment including immunization or other required health records, proof of residency, or other documentation; or academic records, including credit transfer.

  9. Ensure students identified as homeless have school stability, and parents and school personnel are informed about how the school of origin extends to preschools, receiving schools, and providing transportation until the end of the school year, even if a student becomes permanently housed.
  1. Inform parents, guardians, and unaccompanied homeless youth of all services, including transportation to the school of origin, and the criteria for transportation assistance.

  2. Coordinate and collaborate with different divisions within the LEA such as special education, migrant education, Title I, nutrition services, transportation, etc. to ensure homeless students are afforded the opportunities and additional resources to have access to their housed peers.

  3. Develop and coordinate collaborations with resources, including public and private child welfare and social services agencies; law enforcement agencies; juvenile and family courts; agencies providing mental health services; domestic violence agencies, child care providers; runaway and homeless youth centers; food banks, providers of services and programs funded under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; and providers of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing, including public housing agencies, shelter operators, and operators of transitional housing facilities.

  4. Ensure public notification of the educational rights of homeless students is disseminated in locations frequented by parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youths, including schools, shelters, public libraries, and soup kitchens, in an understandable manner and form.

  5. Ensure that parents and the LEA staff are aware of the importance of the privacy of student records, including information about a homeless child or youth’s living situation. • Mediate school enrollment disputes and attend, as authorized, Student Success Teams (SST), School Attendance Review Team/Board (SART/SARB), Individual Education Plan (IEP), Expulsion and Manifestation Determination meetings.

  6. Refer homeless families and students to housing services, in addition to other services. Liaisons may affirm whether homeless students meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness in order to qualify for HUD homeless assistance programs.

Common Donation Requests

Across the U.S. public schools/districts and higher education, Homeless Education Liaisons are tasked with meeting the needs of every homeless child/young adult enrolled within their assigned district.

Teachers and Liaisons that are designated as Title I schools depend upon donated school supplies to help struggling students make the most of their education. Unfortunately, funds are limited and cannot meet the need of every student.

Due to this ever-increasing number of economically-challenged students is why Homeless Education collaborates with community partners to provide funding and additional resources to assure students maintain grade levels during periods of transition.


Homeless Education Program’s common donation request includes:


  • Funding: For student uniforms, transportation, meals, spring break, and summer programming
  • Gift Cards: Gift card donations for items such as shoes, unusual uniform sizes, uniforms, dart passes, and urgent needs (supplies, utility bills).
  • Materials / Supplies: Unused Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, sheets, non-perishable food, school supplies uniforms, and jackets.
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