The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that works to ensure educational stability for homeless youth. The McKinney-Vento act allows homeless students to enroll in school and receive transportation without delay.
The McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of “homeless” for children and youth reflects the reality of family homelessness today.
The definition specifically includes children living in emergency shelters, motels, hotels, trailer parks, cars, parks, public spaces, or abandoned buildings, and those sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
According to the McKinney-Vento Act, the term “homeless children and youths” refers to individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and includes the following four categories:
Children and youth who:
share the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;
are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations;
are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or
are abandoned in hospitals.
Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
Children of migrant or seasonal workers who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described in the first three categories.
The McKinney-Vento Act and other federal laws do not give official definitions of a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” as it pertains to children and youth experiencing homelessness. However, the following working definitions may be useful:
A “fixed nighttime residence” is stationary, permanent, and not subject to change.
A “regular nighttime residence” is used on a predictable, routine, or consistent basis.
An “adequate nighttime residence” sufficiently meets the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments.McKinney-Vento Act’s Definition of “Homeless” for Children and Youth
What is the McKinney-Vento Act?
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures the educational rights and protections of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
What meets the definition of Homelessness?
Homelessness also referred to as “transitional”, refers to lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
Examples include the following:
• Sharing housing (doubling up) due to a loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason • Living in hotels, motels, temporary mobile homes, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative adequate housing
• Living in emergency or transitional shelters
• Abandoned in hospitals
• Living in public or private places not designated for, or normally used as, regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
• Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar places
• Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above
• Immigrant, migrant, and unaccompanied minors who lack parental support
What are some examples of substandard housing?
• Lacking adequate heat, electricity, and/or water
• Having unsafe heating sources or electrical services that present a clear and present danger • Displaying demonstrably unsafe conditions, such as gaping holes in flooring
• Experiencing a kitchen or plumbing that is completely inoperable
• Condemned by housing or other government authorities
• Overcrowding to the point that it is unsafe or not in meeting with fire code
What are the options and considerations for school selection?
• The “school of origin” is defined as the school that a child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled, including preschool. The “school of origin” also includes the receiving school at the next grade level for all feeder schools. Typically, we presume that the school of origin is in the student’s best interest, except when doing so is contrary to the request of the parent or guardian, or, (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth. The school of origin usually provides the least interruption to a child’s education.
• The school that non-homeless students who live in the attendance area are eligible to attend.
Placement of the student should always be in the student’s best interest and the least interruptive of continued education, relationships, etc.
Who determines McKinney-Vento eligibility of a student in transition?
• The Transitional Education Liaisons and staff interview families to determine eligibility based upon criteria as set forth by McKinney-Vento.
• Families may be referred through the District Welcome Center, school staff, and shelters.
Can students be enrolled without the proper documentation?
• The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to enroll homeless students even if they do not immediately have paperwork normally required.
• School records, immunization, or health records should be obtained as soon as possible.
Who are Unaccompanied Homeless Youth?
• Homeless youth that are completely on their own without any parental support • Homeless youth staying with a non-custodial caregiver
How long can a homeless student or unaccompanied youth attend the school of origin?
• The entire duration of the homelessness or until the end of the school year in which the student becomes permanently housed
• Students who become homeless over the summer may also remain in their school of origin for the upcoming school year.
Priscilla (Pat) Bradley
McKinney-Vento Educational Liaison
Central Suburban Cook County