David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

Student homelessness in the United States is a major problem. In the 2013-2014 school year, approximately 1.3 million students were classified as homeless for some part of the school year (Layton & Brown, 9/14/2015). The eight-minute video, Fighting Student Homelessness (Stark 2/17/2017) tells about student homelessness in a Kansas school district.

The U.S. Federal government recognizes this problem and provides both a legal mandate and some funding in this area. Quoting from the Homeless Assistance Act (2/27/2016):

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, state educational agencies (SEAs) must ensure that each homeless child and youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as other children and youths. Homeless children and youths must have access to the educational and related services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging State academic standards to which all students are held. In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment. SEAs and local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to review and undertake steps to revise laws, regulations, practices, or policies that may act as barrier s to the identification, enrollment, attendance, or success in school of homeless children and youths.

In the current budget year, the McKinney-Vento Act is funded at approximately $1,700 per homeless student. Quoting from the National Alliance to End Homelessness (2016):

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants fund local, regional, and state homeless assistance programs through the CoC process. A CoC is a geographical administrative unit through which federal homeless assistance funds are distributed. Homeless assistance providers in a specific geographic area work together to apply for federal funding. HUD ranks the applications and provides funding based on the quality of the application, the performance of the local homeless assistance system, the need for homeless assistance, and the local rankings of individual programs. Funding can be used for permanent and supportive housing, transitional housing, and services. Some funding is also distributed to communities through the Emergency Solutions Grants program.

What You Can Do

Find out what your local school district is doing, both in complying with the homeless student Federal laws, and in actually helping homeless students in your region. A great many communities have programs that raise funds, provide food and shelter, provide volunteer help, and carry out other activities to help homeless students and adults. You can help by checking with your own neighborhood schools and/or school district for information on local needs, and then donating time and/or money.

For example, I live in Florence, Oregon, a town of about 8,500 people. My 2/21/2017 Google search on the expression Florence Oregon homeless students identified five local volunteer-run programs to which residents are invited to contribute time and money.

 References and Resources

Homeless Assistance Act (7/27/2016). Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Department of Education. Retrieved 2/21/2017 from https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/160240ehcyguidance072716.pdf.

Layton, L., & Brown, E. (9/14/2015.) Number of homeless students in U.S. has doubled since before the recession. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2/21/2017 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/number-of-us-homeless-students-has-doubled-since-before-the-recession/2015/09/14/0c1fadb6-58c2-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html?utm_term=.3d2bb1be38c8.

Moursund, D. (5/1/2014). Hungry children—America’s shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/21//2017 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/hungry-children-america-s-shame.html.

National Alliance to End Homelessness (2016). McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grants. Retrieved 2/21/2017 from, http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/mckinneyvento_HAG.

Stark. L. (2/17/2017). Fighting student homelessness. Education Week/Video (6m 58s). Retrieved 2/21/2017 from http://video.edweek.org/detail/videos/student-issues/video/5324267298001/fighting-student-homelessness?autoStart=true&cmp=eml-enl-vid-p1.

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