Schools Support Children Experiencing Homelessness

A boy reading

Take a moment to think about homelessness in Nevada County. What image comes to mind? If you are not seeing children, then you are not seeing the whole picture.

The face of homelessness is changing. California’s housing crisis has displaced many working families, meaning more and more children are living in cars, campgrounds, and shelters or couch-surfing with family and friends. This instability impacts children’s lives in many ways, including their education.

Kids experiencing homelessness may not have the resources to buy school supplies, appropriate clothing, or other basic necessities. The McKinney-Vento Homelessness Education Assistance Act is a federal law that provides for supports and services to fill some of these gaps and ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities.

According to the McKinney-Vento Act, a family is considered homeless if they:

  • Lack a regular, fixed, and adequate nighttime residence
  • Live in a shelter, motel, or hotel
  • Live in an unsheltered residence, such as a car or park
  • Share housing (doubled-up or couch-surfing) due to economic hardship
  • Live in campgrounds due to lack of alternative accommodations
  • Are an unaccompanied child or youth (i.e. not in the physical custody of their parents or guardians)

Students experiencing homelessness in Nevada County can get help through their school with clothing, school supplies, bus passes, field trip fees, testing fees, counseling, academic support, enrollment, and access to community services. Each school district has an appointed Homeless Education Liaison who helps homeless students and families access these supports and services.

If your child needs support, the first step is to share information with your school’s Homeless Liaison, school counselor, or a trusted teacher or school staff member.

Recent data shows that 338 students in Nevada County qualified for McKinney-Vento last year, and it’s likely that even more were eligible. Our community has a lot of work to do to support children experiencing homelessness. McKinney-Vento is a first step in making sure kids have what they need to get the most out of their education.

Homeless Students’ Rights Under McKinney-Vento

School Stability
To remain enrolled in, and be transported to, a student’s School of Origin when feasible, even if a
student moves outside of the district. (‘School of Origin’ means the school last attended when
permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled).

Immediate Enrollment
To be enrolled immediately (even without medical or school records) in the neighborhood school.

Food Provision
To receive FREE breakfast and/or lunch in schools that serve both.

Assistance with Barriers
To have barriers addressed so that they can participate in athletics, field trips, and after school
activities (this could include having certain school fees waived). Parents or guardians should contact
school staff for help.

Academic Support
To ask for academic support if a student is struggling with classwork. Parents or guardians should
contact school staff for assistance.

Transportation Assistance
To ask for transportation support if a student is at risk of missing school. Parents or guardians should
contact school staff for assistance. Homeless Liaisons can work with parents to problem-solve
transportation challenges.