Annual Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 Workshop

The Coalition hosted another annual Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 Workshop on Thursday, September 26th as part of our series of Case Manager Trainings. Over 90 direct service providers and community advocates joined us for a three-hour training on the McKinney-Vento Act. Staff from Building Changes, specifically focused on their Schoolhouse Washington project, led the attendees through the basic provisions of the law and helped trainees work through case scenarios common to this work.

A huge thank you to our presenters:

Their presentation included a PowerPoint presentation and collection of small group scenario questions, both of which can be found here.

The 1986 McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that includes rights and protections for homeless public K-12 students. Decades of social science data shows that students who frequently move schools due to a lack of stable housing have significantly worse outcomes than their peers. The McKinney-Vento Act attempts to address this by providing additional supports to address barriers to success.

The definition of homelessness under the Act is different than definitions used in other social service contexts (it is broader than the HUD definition), which was identified by the presenters as a common source of confusion. The Act defines a student as homeless if that student lacks housing that is:

  • Fixed (stationary, permanent and not subject to change)
  • Regular (Used on a regular, routine or consistent basis)
  • Adequate (sufficient to meeting both the physical and phycological needs typically met within home environments)

This definition includes, but is not limited to, children or youth who are:

  • In shelters or transitional housing;
  • Living in parks, public spaces, vehicles, abandoned buildings, or other places not meant for people to live;
  • Sharing housing (doubled up or couch-surfing) due to loss of housing or economic hardship;
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds due to lack of alternative accommodations;
  • Unaccompanied children or youth (i.e. not in the physical custody of their parents or guardians) who meet the above definition of homelessness.

The presenters stressed that the above terms do not have a legal definition and are applied on a case-by-case basis. In order to facilitate these services, each public-school district under the Act is required to designate at least one staff person as the McKinney-Vento Liaison for that district. The McKinney- Vento Liaison acts as the central point of contact for coordinating services for students. Please review these presentation materials for further information on supports provided through the McKinney-Vento Act.

Below are some additional community resources available to help support homeless students and their families, including a county-wide staff directory and additional legal resources. If you come across issues contacting your district staff liaison, or wish to follow up on additional questions with the event presenters, please send your information and a brief description of your question to