Identification, Eligibility, and Enrollment

Schools and districts can support the needs of students experiencing homelessness by identifying them, confirming their eligibility, and enrolling them in classes. Through identification, eligibility confirmation, and enrollment, schools and districts can help students experiencing homelessness achieve stability and consistency. When students are identified and receive additional supports, they will be more successful in school.


Federal law defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The local education agency’s homeless education liaison can work with other school and district personnel and community partners to identify students experiencing homelessness. Districts can ensure the identification of students experiencing homelessness by clearly stating federal provisions and heightening awareness to the signs of homelessness.
The local homeless education liaison may use tools and strategies listed below to support the identification of students experiencing homelessness:

  • The Sample Housing Questionnaire can be used as an interview tool. To provide whole child supports throughout the school year, homeless education liaisons can keep notes about the hardship that occurred and can set up times throughout the year to check in and update information.
  • Local homeless education liaison contact information visible in schools and districts helps students experiencing homelessness access assistance. Federal law requires that liaisons post information in schools and in the community.
  • Outreach efforts can be supported by SchoolHouse Connection’s “Know Your Rights” Flyers and National Center for Homeless Education's brochures. Place posters in places that may be frequented by families and youth experiencing homelessness such as shelters, food pantries, and laundromats.
  • Meaningful communication with parents, families, and caregivers can support whole child needs of students experiencing homelessness who may be identified as English learners. Providing materials and forms in languages that 5 percent or more of the LEA’s students speak increases access to supports.
  • Professional development for teachers, administrators, and support staff is provided annually by districts and schools. Staff training must focus on the signs of suspected homelessness, the impact of homelessness on students, and the steps to take after a student is identified as homeless. Homeless liaisons can work with personnel that have direct contact with students to help identify students experiencing homelessness. These personnel can include:
    • Teachers,
    • Bus drivers,
    • Guidance counselors,
    • Sanitation workers, and
    • Secretaries.
  • Local stakeholder engagement can help districts and schools as they support students experiencing homelessness. Shelters, food pantries, housing organizations, faith-based communities, and other organizations that serve families experiencing homelessness can often be a resource to districts and schools.
  • Local homeless education liaisons are encouraged to send case-specific emails to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and request county-specific resources to support the family’s housing and other needs by contacting


Homelessness, as defined by McKinney-Vento, often goes undetected. Students who are sharing the housing of another person due to a loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason meet the definition of homeless.

The Federal Education Definition of Homelessness includes students who are:

  • Sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason;
  • Living in hotels, motels, trailer parks (not deemed residential), or campgrounds due to a lack of alternative adequate housing;
  • Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
  • Abandoned in hospitals;
  • Living in a public or private place not designated for or typically used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
  • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar places; and
  • Living in one of the above situations and who are migratory.

For more information about what to listen for when determining McKinney-Vento eligibility, access Unaccompanied Youth FAQ’s “What information can personnel listen for to determine if a student qualifies as an unaccompanied youth?”.


  • Federal law requires that a student remains enrolled in school while schools and districts confirm their eligibility. This ensures that students have stability and consistency in their education. The local homeless education liaison can guide a student experiencing homelessness and their family through the enrollment process.

  • The McKinney-Vento Act presumes it is in a student’s best interest to remain in their school of origin when displaced from their permanent home, but in some circumstances the student may be immediately enrolled in the attendance area school (the place where the student is resting their head at night).

  • School selection can be a collaborative decision, however, the decision power remains with the student and family. Districts may exercise the dispute process when not in agreement with school selection, enrollment, or eligibility. Important terms to note:  

    • School of origin: the school the student attended when permanently housed, or the last school enrolled and attending. Feeder schools need to be applied to this definition.

    • Attendance area school: the school attached to the location where the student is resting their head at night.

Homeless education liaisons can guide school selection discussions weighing the factors listed below:

1) The student’s connections to the school through teachers, counselors, friends, and the placement of siblings;

2) The distance from new housing to school and the impact of lengthy transportation or public transportation on a student is a consideration. However, cost of transportation is not a consideration when making school selection; and

3) Special programming, such as gifted programs, career-tech programs, College Credit Plus, Advanced Placement classes, and other special programs.

  • Federal law requires that records transfers occur without delay. If the student experiencing homelessness chooses to enroll in the attendance area school, then the school staff member processing the enrollment contacts the school of origin to request an immediate transfer of records. Absence or delay of records is not a reason to deny full participation in all school activities. Unpaid fees and fines are not a reason to delay records transfer. Unpaid fees and fines may be waived or paid through general funds. If there is a delay in receiving records, the receiving school may use school assessments to determine the student’s placement until the school receives the records.
  • ​For more information about how to work with families to determine the best school for their student, access School Selection and Best Interest Determination.  

Additional resources

Last Modified: 3/20/2024 7:56:25 AM