These days, we all know of homeless children in our schools. However, you may not know about federal funds available to help your district find, document, and track the children who don’t fall into the traditional family household scenario.
There are many different categories of homelessness.
Homelessness means (National Center for Homeless Education):
- individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
- children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
- children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a 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; and
- migratory children who qualify as homeless because of the circumstances listed above.
We would like to think of homelessness as a temporary situation, that children who are sleeping in a car, for instance, will soon be scooped up by a concerned auntie and taken in to be loved forever. We know better, though.
The first step to providing services for children under the homeless umbrella will be to identify and start to track them. This is one of the main goals of the McKinney-Vento program; the funds provided by the grant can help a school district pay for costs incurred in setting up records. The McKinney-Vento Act also ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge, allowing children to attend their school of origin (last school enrolled or the school they attended when they first became homeless) regardless of what district the family resides in. It also requires schools to register homeless children even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residence.
You can find the application for funds through your state department of education office. Before you launch into “I’m on a mission mode”, be sure to check with your Principal and school business or grants office, it’s probable that someone in your district is already pursuing these funds. The worst mistake a teacher grant writer can make is to go off on her own to go after federal pass-through grants (like Title I, McKinney-Vento etc.). I know because I’ve made this mistake. Be sure you know who the grants manager is in your district, it’s possible that person will want help in setting up grants like these, but you need to be sure.
Some of the projects McKinney-Vento can sponsor in a school district include:
- Tutoring, supplemental instruction
- Expedited evaluations of the strengths and needs of homeless children and youth, including needs and eligibility for programs and services
- Professional development and other activities for educators and pupil services personnel designed to heighten the understanding and sensitivity of the personnel to the needs of homeless children and youth
- Referral services to homeless children and youth for medical, dental, mental, and other health services
- Assistance to defray the excess cost of transportation for students
- Developmentally appropriate early childhood education programs
- Services and assistance to attract, engage, and retain homeless children and youth, and unaccompanied youth, in public school programs
The list goes on, but you need to know the funds must provide direct services to students; for instance, you can’t fund an after school program for all children in your school, the funds must be used specifically for those children who are identified as homeless.
Your homeless issues can become confounded when you add the specter of providing services for children without documents. It’s a separate issue; but sometimes students are both undocumented and homeless. They present a special challenge for communities going forward. Some communities have been labeled as “welcoming to immigrant families“. Those towns have plans in place for transitioning immigrant families into the fabric of their communities. Undocumented students may not receive services under the McKinney-Vento Act unless they are also eligible for homeless assistance as defined by the Act.
Read more about McKinney-Vento:
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Guidance on Use of Funds
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHC)
Stand Up for Kids
Horizons for Homeless Children
Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.