Supports for Families of Students Experiencing Homelessness

Families of students experiencing homelessness are partners in their child’s education and may benefit from supports. Districts and schools are invested in family engagement and supports that will accelerate student learning. Federal law requires that homeless education liaisons simultaneously serve students and their families experiencing homelessness. This guidance will discuss who qualifies as experiencing homelessness, the legal requirements for schools and districts to support families experiencing homelessness and resources for additional information.  

Homelessness Defined 

Federal law defines students experiencing homelessness as children or youth lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. This includes:  

  • Individuals who have lost their own home, suffering a financial hardship or similar reason; 
  • Individuals who are sharing the housing of others; 
  • Individuals who are living in hotels or motels or in campgrounds or trailer parks that are not viewed as year-round homes because they do not have accommodations, such as heat or running water; 
  • Individuals who are living in emergency shelters or who have been abandoned in hospitals; and 
  • ​Individuals who are living in cars, parks or public spaces. 

Enrollment and Access to Services 

Federal law requires that families experiencing homelessness have the following rights and access to supports and services:  

  • A child can stay in the school they were in before becoming homeless or enroll in a school where they are living for the time being.  
  • The family of the child makes this decision with the best interest of the child in mind.  
  • A school or district must immediately enroll a student experiencing homelessness. Families experiencing homelessness may lack paperwork, such as a birth certificate or medical records, but this cannot create a barrier for immediate enrollment. For more information about enrollment, access Identification, Eligibility and Enrollment.  
  • A child must receive transportation services related to schooling. For more information about transportation, access Transportation Services.  
  • Students experiencing homelessness have access to free meals if the school offers meals. The same special programs and services that other children receive, including special education, migrant education and vocational education are available to students experiencing homelessness.  
  • Students experiencing homelessness have access to the same public education other children receive, including preschool.  
  • ​A child may attend their parent or guardians’ school of choice (school of origin or attendance area), even if there is a dispute and while the dispute is in the appeal process. 

Family and Liaison Partnerships  

The families of students experiencing homelessness play a vital role in their student’s educational stability. Homeless education liaison assistance for students experiencing homelessness can include the following supports: 

  • Transportation needs, 
  • Attendance supports, 
  • Community supports, 
  • School placement options, 
  • Supports obtaining vital records, 
  • Medical services and supports, 
  • Access to Head Start and early education services, 
  • Connection to after-school programs and activities, and 
  • Advocacy for unaccompanied youth

For more information about supports and resources for students experiencing homelessness, access Supports for Students Experiencing Homelessness.  

Organizations Assisting Families Experiencing Homelessness 

Families experiencing homelessness may want to seek additional information to advocate for their children and work together with their child’s schools to ensure future success. Below are resources to support families. 

Last Modified: 12/4/2023 2:59:50 PM