- Frequently Asked Questions
- Public Service Announcements
- Checklists, Guides, and Strategies
- State COVID-19 Guidance
- Upcoming and Archived Webinars
- Guest Perspectives
- Policy Updates on COVID-19
- Homeless Education in the News: COVID-19 and Homelessness
- Resources from Federal Agencies and Partner Organizations
How to Contact your McKinney-Vento Liaison
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.
Click HERE to find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.
Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator.
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.
Public schools and early childhood programs reported a record 1.5 million children and youth experiencing homelessness earlier this year. In the midst of the current crisis, this number is expected to spike and the role of schools has never been more critical – regardless of whether they reopen on a remote, hybrid, or in-person model.
Schools are required by law to identify, enroll, and serve homeless children and youth, but distance learning and other COVID-related complications have made this harder. Without the usual methods of outreach and identification, many families and youth experiencing homelessness may be even more disconnected from school and early childhood programs.
To help inform families and youth about their educational rights, SchoolHouse Connection announces two public service announcements (PSA) aimed at reaching families, educators, community organizations, and local leaders:
- A PSA from Sesame Street Workshop with a message from Elmo for parents and children experiencing homelessness.
- A PSA aimed at educators and community members to engage them in efforts to identify and assist families and youth experiencing homelessness.
>> Click HERE to access resources for educators, providers, parents, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
Students experiencing homelessness face many barriers in their pursuit of higher education. The pandemic has created even more barriers to their education, health, and safety. Institutions can use this checklist to review their policies and practices to ensure that they support students experiencing homelessness, and help rather than hinder their enrollment, retention, and success.
Back to College and Training 2020: An Editable Toolkit for Assisting Youth with Experience in Foster Care or Homelessness
The COVID-19 pandemic caused unexpected campus closures in mid-March. With the Fall 2020 school year approaching, some campuses have decided to resume in-person classes with heavy safety precautions to enforce social distancing, some are going completely remote, and some will be a hybrid of the two. Students need to make many decisions about if and how they want to resume their education in a way that is safe and meets their needs. Planning for the school year is complicated and young people need our help to make the best decisions possible. This resource provides tips for advocates and higher education institutions.
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.
Flyer: Signs of Potential Homelessness in a Virtual Learning World
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These documents are excellent models for other states to help ensure equitable access to education and services for students experiencing homelessness, as the school year begins under the shadow of COVID-19.
- Illinois State Board of Education – Supporting Homeless Students During the 2020-21 School Year: Guidance for Schools and Districts
- Connecticut State Department of Education – COVID-19 and Homelessness: Information for Schools
- New Mexico Public Education Department – Homeless and Housing Unstable Students: Legal Obligations and Best Practices for School Reentry
- Georgia Department of Education – Title IX, Part A – McKinney Vento – School Closures
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.
Implementing the McKinney-Vento Act in the COVID-19 Era
While the McKinney-Vento Act is in full effect this school year, some of the details of implementation must adapt to changes in education brought on by COVID-19. What is the threshold for remaining in the school of origin in a distance learning environment? What are transportation requirements for a student crossing district lines to attend the school of origin, if one district is in-person but the other is virtual? How does distance learning affect the allowable uses of McKinney-Vento funds? This webinar will work through scenarios and legal brainteasers that will help you provide students experiencing homelessness with their full rights and services under the McKinney-Vento Act in the COVID-19 era.
Meeting Students’ Nutritional Needs This School Year
Date Recorded: September 2, 2020
Due to the impact of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to ensure students have access to the nutrition they need to thrive. Join this webinar to learn the latest on child nutrition, including flexibilities available to school districts and program providers for this school year; information about Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), and tools and resources available to districts and states to ensure program success.
Back-to-School 2020: Challenges and Strategies for Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness
Returning to school this fall entails unprecedented challenges for identifying, enrolling, and serving students experiencing homelessness. Whether schools in your community are opening with in-person classes, full distance learning, or some combination, implementing the McKinney-Vento Act will require more creativity and collaboration than ever. Join us as we discuss challenges and strategies to identify, enroll, engage, and support students and families as we return to school in the midst of a pandemic.
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
Briefing #2: Parent Voices
Date Recorded: July 16, 2020
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
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
- Hear the perspectives of three SHC Youth Leadership & Scholarship students who are navigating college during the coronavirus pandemic
- Learn what higher education practitioners, service providers, and others can do to better support students experiencing homelessness during this time
- Have the opportunity to ask questions to our youth panel about their experiences and their insights
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
Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #4: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: April 9, 2020
Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #3: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date Recorded: April 2, 2020
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
Virtual Conversation with SHC on COVID-19 #1: Questions, Strategies, Information
Date recorded: March 19, 2020
On July 16, 2020, we connected with four mothers from New Jersey, Louisiana, Ohio, and Louisiana to share their unique parental perspectives. Through this discussion, we learned about some of the challenges facing parents and their children who are navigating homelessness during the COVID-19 era; the assistance they have found thus far, and the support they still need, but have not yet received.
In July, we connected virtually with five youth for a Congressional briefing on homelessness and COVID-19. We listened as they reflected on their childhood experiences of homelessness, the role of school and educators, and the challenges they faced navigating college and homelessness in the wake of COVID-19.
In this blog post, we transcribe the highlights of the hearing and share video clips.
Across the nation, school district homeless liaisons and early childhood programs are facing enormous and unprecedented challenges serving children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Yet liaisons also are coming up with creative strategies, drawing on community support, and forging ahead to meet constantly changing needs. In this video series, we sit down with liaisons and other providers from across the nation to share their experiences and tips as they face the new school year.
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.
“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…”
On Friday, August 7, U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY), Don Bacon (R-NE), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Don Young (R-AK) introduced the bipartisan Emergency Family Stabilization Act, H.R. 7950 (EFSA).
This legislation is the companion bill to S. 3923, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 10 by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Susan Collins (R-ME). 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NPR – September 20, 2020
Remote Learning Presents Additional Challenge For Students Experiencing Homelessness
The New York Times Magazine – September 9, 2020
The Children in the Shadows: New York City’s Homeless Students
Thomson Reuters Foundation News – August 19, 2020
OPINION: There is no recovery from COVID-19 if we leave millions of children and families behind
Youth Today – July 23, 2020
Formerly Homeless Youth Urge Congress to Act During Pandemic
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.”
- CDC: Resources for K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs
- CDC: Interim Guidance for Homeless Shelters
- CDC: Resources for Community- and Faith-Based Leaders
- ED: COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel
- Office of Head Start: The guidance from ACF-HS-IM-19-01 General Disaster Recovery Flexibilities can be applied to Head Start programs impacted by COVID-19
- U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness: Supporting Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness during the COVID-19 Outbreak: Questions to Consider
- On Wednesday, March 25, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness convened federal leaders from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control in a Zoom call specifically for homeless education professionals on COVID-19. The federal agencies provided the latest information on COVID-19 as of the date of the recording. Here is the link to the recording.
- COVID-19 Fact Sheet for Grandfamilies and Multigenerational Families
- USDA: FNS Response to COVID-19, including school meals waivers and delivery options
- Sesame Street in Communities: Caring for Each Other
- UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health’s Community Action Team – A series of videos for people providing services to youth experiencing homelessness.