As COVID-19 disrupts education, services and life across the country, children and youth experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable. This page offers resources to help meet their needs as we respond to this global crisis.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve received many questions from educators, service providers, and the public about COVID-19 and homeless students. This Frequently Asked Questions document compiles our best responses to the questions we’ve received, as well as strategies and practices from educators and providers across the country who have participated in our virtual conversations. We’ll continue to update this FAQ regularly.

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Checklists, Guides, and Strategies

Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness During School Building Closures

With many school buildings completely or largely closed this fall, identifying students experiencing homelessness will require revisions to typical techniques. The anticipated increase in homelessness due to increased unemployment, family stress, and other factors also will complicate identification efforts. This checklist offers some strategies to promote robust identification of students experiencing homelessness during COVID-19.

Removing Barriers to Online Enrollment for Students Experiencing Homelessness

This checklist outlines some of the most common barriers to online enrollment for students experiencing homelessness and provides strategies for addressing them. Using this checklist to assess and remove barriers will help ensure students experiencing homelessness can have immediate and equitable access to school.

Preparing for School Reopening and Recovery: Considerations in Serving Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

This checklist offers important considerations to help state and local educational agencies ensure equitable access to education for students experiencing homelessness as they prepare for the new school year.

How Financial Aid Administrators Can Respond to COVID-19’s Impact on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Seeking Financial Aid

The COVID-19 crisis has created new barriers to financial aid for unaccompanied homeless youth. But with support from financial aid and other supportive higher education professionals, these students can continue making their dreams of a college education come true. Here are relatively simple ways that financial aid administrators (FAAs) can help to remove barriers for these vulnerable students.

Keeping in Touch with Students and Families Experiencing Homelessness During School Building Closures

Given the challenges of mobility, deep poverty, and trauma, keeping in touch with students and families experiencing homelessness can be a challenge in the best of times. With school buildings and early childhood programs closed, and students and families moving even more frequently due to COVID-19, maintaining connections is even more difficult. At the same time, the anticipated increase in homelessness over the coming months makes keeping in touch more important than ever. This checklist offers some strategies that liaisons, schools, and early childhood programs can use to keep in touch with students and families.

COVID-19 Checklist for State Education Leaders on Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

SchoolHouse Connection offers this checklist of important considerations for SEA leaders to keep in mind as they review LEA plans, produce guidance for LEAs, and target and use stimulus funding to meet the needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Five Strategies to Help Homeless Youth Transition to College During COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis requires McKinney-Vento liaisons and other educators to think creatively about how to carry out their responsibilities to help youth experiencing homelessness transition to higher education. Here are five strategies to help keep the dream of a postsecondary education alive for youth experiencing homelessness, during and beyond these troubled times.

Five Ways to Protect Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers experiencing homelessness are even more vulnerable in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, as they struggle with disruptions in food, family, and housing, as well as the increased stress of caregivers. SchoolHouse Connection offers five strategies for young children experiencing homelessness during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis.

Fact Sheet on Stimulus Payments and Homeless Youth

This one-page fact sheet details key information and important considerations about the stimulus payments and homeless youth. The fact sheet is the result of a collaboration among SchoolHouse Connection, the National Network for Youth, and our pro bono partner, Baker McKenzie.

Checklist for Local Education Agencies and Early Childhood Providers

All COVID-19 responses must proactively incorporate outreach to homeless families and unaccompanied youth, including those who are staying in “hidden” homeless situations. These families and youth are unlikely to benefit from initiatives that are predicated on a stable and safe home environment, consistent internet access, or reliable transportation.

Strategies for Schools and Early Learning Programs

Schools and early childhood programs offer stability and safety. When schools and early learning programs close, or move to online learning, the health, safety, and well-being of homeless children and youth are jeopardized. This tip sheet offers strategies for schools and early learning programs.

Higher Education Resource: COVID-19 Response for Youth Who Are Homeless or in Foster Care

Many students who have experienced homelessness or foster care do not have a strong support system to which they can turn to in times of crisis. They may not have a caring adult to call for advice or information on how to keep safe and healthy. This guide aims to provide concrete tips and resources in order to support students who are homeless or with experience in foster care during the COVID-19 crisis in order to promote health and educational success.

Opportunities for Impact Survey: Child and Youth Homelessness, Schools, and COVID-19

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, SchoolHouse Connection conducted a survey of McKinney-Vento Liaisons, homeless service providers, early childhood and post-secondary education organizations, and other non-profits to determine what needs existed at that point in the crisis.

Upcoming and Archived Webinars

Since mid-March, SHC has gone live biweekly to share breaking news and updates on COVID-19 and homelessness, facilitate strategy-sharing, and answer questions based on existing law and guidance. We also conducted webinars on the stimulus payments and charter schools serving students experiencing homelessness, and highlighted college students navigating homelessness during this pandemic. 

Archived Webinars

Family and Youth Homelessness in the Wake of COVID-19: A Virtual Congressional Briefing Series In Collaboration with the Congressional Caucus

Co-Hosted by SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, Family Promise, and First Focus Campaign for Children

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, public schools and early childhood programs reported the highest number of children and youth experiencing homelessness on record. These numbers are expected to rise in the wake of the health and economic crises. Three unique briefings provide youth perspectives, parent perspectives, and provider perspectives on the current state of child, youth, and family homelessness, including the impact of COVID-19, long-standing racial disparities and equity challenges, gaps in current policies, and various legislative proposals, including the Emergency Family Stabilization Act and the Homeless Children and Youth Act.

Briefing #1: Youth Voices
Date Recorded: July 14, 2020

The briefing is a facilitated discussion with five young people about their experiences prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic.
Watch the Recording
Download the Powerpoint

Briefing #2: Parent Voices 
Date Recorded: July 16, 2020

The briefing is a facilitated discussion with three parents about their experiences prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic.
Watch the Recording
Download the Powerpoint

Briefing #3: Provider Voices
Date Recorded: July 22, 2020

The briefing is a facilitated discussion with family and youth service providers about their experiences serving children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic, and how the Emergency Family Stabilization Act would bring urgent relief through the systems and programs to which youth and families are most connected.
Watch the Recording
Download the Powerpoint

Federal Policy Update on Child, Youth, and Family Homelessness
Date Recorded: July 1, 2020

In July, Congress will pick up the pace on the next coronavirus relief package, as well as FY2021 appropriations. Learn about what’s at stake for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness, including the newly-introduced, innovative, and necessary bipartisan Emergency Family Stabilization Act, S. 3923, which provides flexible funding directly to community-based organizations. We’ll cover other COVID-19 legislation, including the HEROES Act, as well as FY2021 funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program, HUD homeless assistance programs, and other programs serving children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. Learn the latest and find out what you can do to help protect the futures of vulnerable youth and families.
Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #7: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: May 21, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Access to Stimulus Payments for Young People
Date Recorded: May 20, 2020

This follow-up webinar dug deeper into how unaccompanied youth can access stimulus payments under the CARES Act, and what you can do to help. Tax attorneys from Baker McKenzie will present information on accessing the payments, roadblocks that exist currently, and how to best position youth to access current, and potential future, payments. Please submit your questions when you register for the webinar. We will have Q&A during the webinar, but questions submitted ahead of time will be given priority.
Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC and Friends on COVID-19 #6: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: May 7, 2020

During this COVID-19 conversation, we welcomed Ed Hinde, Executive Director of Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership (SHIP) of Frederick County, MD, and Ashley Bennett, Lead Counselor for SHIP’s New Horizons Program. SHIP is partnering closely with Frederick County Public Schools and McKinney-Vento students during the COVID-19 outbreak, with an emphasis on outreach, basic needs, mental health, and continuity of learning. Ed and Ashley also will discuss community housing efforts, including their host home network for unaccompanied high school youth.
Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Our Names are Destiny, Lorinda, and Jose: Navigating Homelessness During COVID-19
Date Recorded: April 30, 2020

From closed campuses to canceled graduation ceremonies, over 14 million college students have been impacted by COVID-19. Many students also lost their housing and access to food. Youth with previous experiences of homelessness have even fewer back up resources. From this webinar participants will:
  1. Hear the perspectives of three SHC Youth Leadership & Scholarship students who are navigating college during the coronavirus pandemic
  2. Learn what higher education practitioners, service providers, and others can do to better support students experiencing homelessness during this time
  3. Have the opportunity to ask questions to our youth panel about their experiences and their insights

Watch the recording
Download the Powerpoint

Access to Stimulus Payments for Young People
Date Recorded: April 29, 2020

Join us to learn more about how these stimulus payments under the CARES Act can be accessed by young people. We will be joined by Tax attorneys from Baker McKenzie who will present information on accessing the payments as well as possible roadblocks that exist currently. There will be time for a Q&A following the presentation. Please join us to learn more.
Watch the recording
Download the Powerpoint

Charter Schools Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness during the COVID-19 Crisis
Date Recorded: April 24, 2020

In these times of crisis, students experiencing homelessness are even more vulnerable than under “normal” circumstances. Join SchoolHouse Connection and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools for a conversation on how charter schools can meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis. During the webinar, you will learn about legal requirements as well as best practices in serving students experiencing homelessness.
Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #5: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: April 23, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #4: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: April 9, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
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Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #3: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: April 2, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Federal Policy Update: Coronavirus Funding and Policy on Child and Youth Homelessness
Date Recorded: April 1, 2020

Congress has enacted several packages of sweeping legislation and funding to help communities respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Learn about the latest developments, get your questions answered, and find out what you can do to shape implementation and help direct resources for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.
Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #2: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date recorded: March 25, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #1: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date recorded: March 19, 2020

Watch the recorded webinar
Download the Powerpoint

Guest Perspectives

Our Names are Destiny, Lorinda, and Jose: Navigating Homelessness During COVID-19

On April 30th, SchoolHouse Connection hosted a webinar featuring three young leaders from our Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program who are navigating higher education during the coronavirus pandemic. During the webinar, the students shared their experiences, challenges, and advice for other students, higher education professionals, and service providers. This blog post has been repurposed from the webinar.

Supporting Our Students Amidst the Unknown: Evolving Lessons During COVID-19

“As a college student, I experienced a devastating hurricane, where most of the town I lived in was flooded. I remember this experience as being scary, filled with loss, and ultimately extremely traumatic — especially on top of the trauma of my own homelessness. As I navigate my current professional role supporting students who are homeless during the Coronavirus outbreak, I have been reflecting on my experiences as a student. COVID-19 is like an untraceable hurricane. While confronting the tremendous uncertainty of when and how it will end, I have been asking myself “How do we best support our students amidst the unknown?” Like many, I have been doing my best to navigate this unfamiliar territory, day by day. In just a few weeks, I have learned a lot. I’d like to share some of the strategies I have used to support our SchoolHouse Connection scholars and young leaders in the hopes that it will help others, as well as begin to build a foundation for best practices in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Policy Updates on COVID-19 and Homelessness

Emergency Legislation for Homeless Children, Youth, and Families Introduced

On June 9, 2020, the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (EFSA), S. 3923, was introduced by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). This legislation provides flexible funding directly to community-based organizations to meet the needs of children, families, and unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn More + Take Action

Support Homeless Children and Youth in the Next COVID-19 Legislation

Bipartisan letters were sent this week by Members of Congress to House and Senate leadership requesting increased funding for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness in the next COVID-19 relief legislation that Congress approves. The House letter was led by U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Danny K. Davis (D-IL); the Senate letter was led by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Read the Letters + Take Action

Support Homeless and Trafficked Children, Youth, and Families in the Next COVID Relief Bill

U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) are circulating a bipartisan “Dear Colleague Letter” to House leadership requesting support for children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness and for survivors of human trafficking in the next coronavirus relief package.

Joint Statement of Education and Civil Rights Organizations on Equitable Education During COVID-19

Signed by over 50 organizations, this statement provides promising practices and recommendations to school administrators, teachers, parents, education and civil rights advocates, and policymakers who are working hard to educate and care for America’s students in this unprecedented time of crisis. It focuses on five important areas requiring attention to ensure student success: distance learning and digital access, delivery of school meals, instruction for students with disabilities, instruction for students experiencing homelessness, and combatting discrimination based on race and national origin, including for English learners.

Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and Homeless Students

On April 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) published the application for $3 billion in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds. The amount each state will receive is available here

Under the CARES Act, these flexible grants are for Governors to provide local educational agencies (LEAs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), and other education-related entities with emergency assistance to respond to the coronavirus. Each state has until June 1, 2020, to submit a signed certification and agreement (or application) to the Department.

Emergency Financial Aid Grants through the CARES Act

On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it is making available over $6 billion to institutions of higher education for emergency financial aid grants, to be provided directly to students for expenses related to disruptions in education caused by COVID-19, including course materials and technology, food, housing, health care, and childcare. The guidance from ED does not instruct institutions on how to provide emergency financial aid to students, but does encourage leaders to prioritize those students with the greatest need.

“Phase Four” Coronavirus Advocacy Priorities for Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness

Congress recently passed the $2 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), H.R. 748. Yet lawmakers already are at work on a fourth major legislative package (“Phase Four”) to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The CARES Act provided significant new resources for education, early care, housing, nutrition, and services. However, those resources are insufficiently targeted to one of the most mobile, vulnerable, and hidden populations: children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.

Education Waivers Related to Homelessness and Other COVID-19 Federal Waivers

On April 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced several funding flexibilities to help states and local educational agencies (LEAs) respond to COVID-19 and school closures.

Third Major Coronavirus Legislation Enacted: Includes New Funding to Support Homeless Children and Youth

On Friday, March 27, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), H.R. 748. Additional emergency aid bills are expected in future months. H.R. 748 represents a $2 trillion package that includes a wide range of funding and policy measures to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, including to address the early care, education, and emergency housing needs of children, youth, and families.

Congressional Action on COVID-19 and Homelessness

On Wednesday, March 18, President Trump signed into law “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (H.R. 6201). The legislation guarantees free coronavirus testing, secures paid emergency leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states.

Homeless Education in the News: COVID-19 and Homelessness

EdSource – May 26, 2020
Schools would get $1 billion to help homeless students under bipartisan federal proposal

The Hechinger Report, The Seattle Times – May 24, 2020
‘I’m on edge all day long.’ Schoolwork a mere afterthought for homeless youth

The City – May 17, 2020
Homeless Shelter Youth Face the Street During Pandemic

Detroit Free Press – May 16, 2020
She’s racing to help homeless kids — but can’t reach them during pandemic

Education Post – May 12, 2020
Students Who Are Homeless Need Us Now More Than Ever. And It Starts at the Top.

Chalkbeat – May 7, 2020
Housing instability is expected to rise. Schools are already on the front lines.

YouthToday – May 5, 2020
5 Ways to Best Support Homeless Students During COVID-19

EdSource – May 4, 2020
California’s homeless students at risk of falling through the cracks during pandemic

Thomson Reuters – April 20, 2020
‘Schools are survival’: U.S. coronavirus closures put homeless students at risk

The 74 Million – April 15, 2020
The Realities of Life for Homeless Students Must Be Part of Remote Learning Strategies During Coronavirus Shutdowns
For children and youth experiencing homelessness, schools are much more than classrooms. School is often the most stable and secure part of their day, a place that — quite unlike where they sleep at night — does not change. 

Stateline – April 15, 2020
Coronavirus Eviction Rules Don’t Always Help People in Motels

The New York Times – April 13, 2020
The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy
Unstable in the best of times, doubled-up housing may be even more vulnerable to conflict during a pandemic, when closed schools keep homes crowded with children all day and fears of infection add new layers of anxiety. “Family homelessness has always been unsafe and unstable — now the risks are even higher,” said Barbara Duffield, the director of SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit group that tries to improve homeless children’s education.

Chicago Sun Times – April 13, 2020
Inside the life of a homeless Chicago student in the age of the coronavirus: Fear of failing — or Not Surviving.
She’s 11 years old and one of 17,000 homeless Chicago Public Schools students. She’s pre-diabetic, asthmatic and her neighborhood has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Illinois. “I am terrified of the coronavirus,” Mariah says, “because I love my life.”

Education Week – April 10, 2020
Where Are They? Students Go Missing in Shift to Remote Classes
People [in the district] ask, ‘What if we can never make contact?’ And we tell them, one phone call can save a life,” Gestson said. “This is not just about academic preparedness and attendance, it’s about lives. It’s not just changing lives, but in some cases, about saving lives.”

The 74 Million – March 24, 2020
Reaching ‘Our Most Invisible Population’ During a Pandemic: How Schools Are Scrambling to Protect Homeless Students as Coronavirus Shatters Safety Nets

Resources from Federal Agencies and Partner Organizations

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