Identifying And Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness

Alexandra Pavlakis, J. Kessa Roberts, Meredith Richards | Southern Methodist University
Kathryn Hill, Zitsi Mirakhur | Research Alliance for New York City Schools

Breaking Down the Issue

  • Homelessness is not a uniform experience.
  • Even before the pandemic, student homelessness was increasing, and many schools were struggling to respond.
  • Students experiencing homelessness may be particularly vulnerable to health-, wellbeing-, and education-related adversity brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic.

Strategies to Consider

  • To successfully implement the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, schools should prioritize proactive identification and consider fostering an environment that frames policy supports as rights for students.
  • Collaborations and data sharing with community providers can improve identification of students experiencing homelessness and ease access to resources and supports for families.
  • Regular communication to build relationships with student-identified networks of trusted adults allows schools to tailor practices and supports in ways that meet individual needs.
  • When weighing the risks and benefits of various models for reopening schools in the fall, plans must consider local COVID-19 conditions, available funding, and the realities of students’ home environments.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Deficit-oriented and stigmatizing practices may have adverse short- and long-term consequences for students and their families.