Helping Students Experiencing Homelessness (McKinney-Vento) Training – August 1st, 2023

Thanks for supporting our K-12 students experiencing homelessness!

Welcome back to our annual training on understanding the McKinney-Vento Act and serving K-12 students experiencing homelessness!

In this year’s training, we covered a number of topics, including:

  • An overview of the McKinney-Vento Act and what it requires of each school district
  • The rights of K-12 students experiencing homelessness
  • The role of the Homeless Student Liaison and how to advocate for a student’s rights
  • What community resources exist for youth experiencing homelessness, via a Resource Fair!

In our Resource Fair, we heard from so many of our community partners that serve homeless youth, including:

For a printable one-pager that highlights services and contact information of many of these organizations, check out our website!

For a full recording of our training, check out our YouTube video below!

What is the McKinney-Vento Act? Who does it serve?

We were lucky enough to receive a presentation by Kayla Blau of BELONG Partners, who has worked as a Homeless Student Liaison in Seattle, Sammie Iverson of Building Changes, who has worked as a Homeless Student Liaison in Tacoma, and Tim Marshall of the Coalition on Homelessness who was a McKinney-Vento student in the Highline School District.

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that mandates educational access and resources to youth experiencing homelessness in every school district in the U.S. These resources respond to the unique needs of homeless youth to help them stay in school, attain their academic and social goals, and graduate. The most obvious McKinney-Vento resource in one’s school is the presence of a Homeless Education Liaison, who is responsible for enrolling homeless students in supportive services and making referrals that are necessary for a student to be successful. Homeless Education Liaisons are also a great point of contact for any community provider who is advocating on behalf of a youth experiencing homelessness.

For an up-to-date list of Homeless Education Liaisons in Washington, check out the OSPI website.

To be eligible for McKinney-Vento services, a student must fit the definition of homelessness as determined by the US Department of Education. By this definition, a youth must “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence”. This includes youth who are in the following situations:

  • Being doubled-up (living in another person’s household with other people due to loss of housing or economic hardship) – it is common for school districts to not consider doubled-up students to be homeless, but this is the most common experience for youth and families!
  • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds due to lack of alternative accommodations
  • Living in emergency or transitional shelters
  • Being abandoned in hospitals
  • Having a primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc)
  • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations
  • Migrating between any of the above spaces

What are the Rights of Youth Experiencing Homelessness?

The McKinney-Vento Act validates many rights that most students take for granted but may not be recognized for students experiencing homelessness. McKinney-Vento student rights include:

  • The right to immediate enrollment in their school of origin – this could be the last school attended when last permanently housed or the school in which they were last enrolled
  • The right to affordable and accessible transportation to their school of origin – even if it requires extensive coordination by the school district
  • The right to participate in the same activities, programs, and services as other students, regardless of cost
  • The right to a Dispute Resolution Process, wherein a student can appeal if they have been unfairly excluded from access to services and accommodations.

Note that unaccompanied minors (youth experiencing homelessness and not in physical custody of a parent or guardian) have additional rights due to their uniquely vulnerable status. This includes access to medical care and State ID cards without parent or guardian consent. For more resources for unaccompanied minors, visit the NCHE website.

School districts are responsible for ensuring that the rights of McKinney-Vento students are protected. Unfortunately, we know that school districts do not always recognize their responsibility or may not recognize a student as homeless due to lack of funding or lack of experiencing working with youth or families experiencing homelessness. In some cases, service providers may need to advocate for students by consulting with the Homeless Education Liaison or appealing to a higher authority. Check out the following advocacy resources for more info:

Questions? Contact Kayla at blaukayla[at]gmail[dot]com or Samie at samie.iverson[at]buildingchanges[dot]org.

Resource Fair! – Presentations from a Community of Providers

TeamChild provides legal resources for those who are 12-24 and low-income, including youth experiencing homelessness. Their advocacy team fights for the rights to education, healthcare, housing, and fair interactions with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in King, Pierce, Yakima, and Spokane Counties.

To make a referral to TeamChild:

BrightSpark supports vulnerable families and childcare providers to ensure that childcare services are available and affordable – this includes childcare subsidies for families experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in Seattle, Renton, Bellevue, Kent, and Redmond.

To apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program:

  • Call their Intake Line at 206-329-5544
  • Call the Statewide Call Center at 1-800-446-1114
  • Submit a Subsidy Interest Form to flag a family for follow-up

Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) also offers a Homeless Grace Period subsidy – to apply:

Friends of Youth provides a number of supportive services for youth up to 24, including a crisis hotline, financial and legal assistance, mental health and substance use support, shelter, and housing programs.

To contact the Safe Place 24-hour Crisis Hotline, call 1-800-422-TEEN(8336)

To learn more about all other programming:

YouthCare is working to end homelessness and ensure youth are valued and empowered to achieve their potential. In practice, they support youth with case management, employment readiness, educational needs, shelter, housing, and other basic needs.

Questions for YouthCare?

Check out the slides below for more information:

Kandelia provides academic support, professional development, language support, and food access support for immigrant and refugee families served by Seattle Public Schools.

To refer a family to Kandelia:

Check out their brochure below for more info!

BELONG Partners, formerly Sound Discipline, know that youth who have experienced homelessness or housing instability have experienced trauma, which can affect their social-emotional learning. This means these youth need support to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and interact with their communities in healthy ways. BELONG Partners works with community service providers and school districts to create safe spaces and help vulnerable youth learn and thrive, via trainings, practices, and toolkits.

Stacy Lappin shared The Hand-Brain Model, a self-regulation activity as an introduction into some training they provide, which can be viewed below.

You can also access their Self-Regulation Tool Cards on their website.
To learn more about their programs and for an exclusive training promo code, check out their flyers below:

Questions for BELONG Partners?