The McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law, has been in effect to support the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Act defines "homeless children and youth" as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The intent of the McKinney-Vento Act is to ensure that homeless children and youth enroll in, and succeed in school.
Definition of Homelessness
Who is Homeless?
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines “homeless children and youth” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
Anyone who, lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence may live in the following:
• In emergency or transitional shelters;
• In motels, hotels, campgrounds, abandoned in hospitals, or awaiting foster care;
• In cars, parks, public places, bus or train stations, or abandoned buildings;
• Doubled up with relatives or friends;
• Unaccompanied Youth: Who is not living with a parent or guardian and are living in a homeless situation;
• Migratory children living in these conditions.
Homeless Student Rights
Homeless students have the following rights:
- To attend public school.
- To enroll in school even without a permanent address. A homeless student cannot be denied school enrollment just because school records or other enrollment documentation are not immediately available.
- To stay in their school of origin. The school of origin is defined as the school the student attended when the student was permanently housed or the school in which the student was last enrolled.
- To receive transportation services to and from the school of origin.
- To participate in extracurricular activities and all federal, state, or local programs for which he/she is eligible.
- Homeless student between ages 3-21 if determined to be eligible will receive special education services. If you believe your child may be eligible, contact your school principal or the District Special Education Office at (208) 855-4500.
School of Origin
The school of origin is defined as the school the student attended when the student was permanently housed or the school in which the student was last enrolled.
The district homeless liaison, district social workers, and school counselors will use the guidance below from the McKinney-Vento Act to determine whether a child or youth’s living situation fits into one of the specific examples of doubled-up homelessness.
The term "doubled-up" within the McKinney-Vento Act is described as “sharing the housing of other persons”. Doubled-up implies that the student is staying in another person’s home. Students qualify as homeless if the following situations describe their living situation: a) the student/family has no legal right to be in the home; b) the student/family can be asked to leave at any time with no legal recourse; c) the living situation is intended to be temporary; d) the student/family moved into the home as an urgent measure to avoid being on the street or in another precarious situation.
The phrase “due to loss of housing” is also related to the definition of "doubled up". This phrase implies that the student has no personal housing available. Students qualify as homeless if the student/ family lost their previous housing due to any of the following: a) an eviction or an inability to pay the rent or other bills; b) destruction of or damage to the previous home; c) abuse or neglect (such as in the case of a youth who leaves or is asked to leave the home; d) unhealthy conditions such as an inadequate physical environment, infestations, drug or alcohol abuse in the home, or domestic violence; e) absence of a parent or guardian due to abandonment, the parent’s or guardian’s incarceration, or another abandonment reason.
The final phrase found in the McKinney-Vento Act that is related to the term doubled-up is “economic hardship”. Thus, the way that the shared housing came about and the intention of the residents are significant factors to consider. Students qualify as homeless if: a) limited financial resources has forced student/family to leave their personal residence and share housing due to an inability to pay the rent and other bills; b) an accident or illness, loss of employment, loss of public benefits, or condition of poverty has forced the student/family to share housing temporarily.
Students do not qualify as homeless if their living situation is a long-term, cooperative living arrangement that is fixed, regular, and adequate with another family or friends. Students also do not qualify as homeless if the student/family is living in a long-term cooperative living that is fixed, regular, and adequate for the purpose of saving money.
Source: National Center for Homeless Education, Best Practices in Homeless Education Determining Eligibility for Rights and Services Under the McKinney-Vento Act, 2008
The information contained in this document is intended to serve as a general guide regarding Unaccompanied Homeless Youth eligibility. All McKinney-Vento eligibility determinations should be made on a case-by-case basis based on the individual circumstances of each student.
To be eligible for McKinney-Vento services as an unaccompanied homeless student, the student must meet two criteria: 1) The student’s living arrangement must meet the McKinney-Vento definition of “homeless”; and 2) The student is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
To determine eligibility for a potentially unaccompanied student it is important to ask the question “why is the student living with this person?”
Reasons that a student would not be considered unaccompanied homeless include: 1) if the parent transferred for work and the student wants to stay and finish a school year; 2) if the student moved in with a friend, relative, or coach to play sports, be in the band, attend a magnet school, etc. 3) student did not change residences, a caregiver moved in; parent made arrangements for the student prior to incarceration; 4) parent’s work schedule was problematic, so the student stays with relatives for school.
The following situations would indicate that more information is needed to be able to determine that a student was an unaccompanied homeless youth: 1) parent is incarcerated and a relative or friend agreed to care for the child either in or out of state; 2) parent enrolled the student and then left the area.
The following are all reasons that a student would be considered an unaccompanied homeless youth: 1) family was evicted; cannot find housing all together; parent placed child temporarily with a friend or relative; 2) student left home due to danger or extreme conflict or the student was put out of home by parent for a similar reason; 3) the family was homeless prior to the parent’s incarceration and the caregiver arrangement is not fixed, regular, and adequate; 4) the family lost housing and the parent placed the child temporarily with a friend or relative.
Source: Adapted from a flowchart provided by Gay Thomas, Local Liaison, Virginia Beach Public Schools