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National Center for Homeless EducationSupporting the Education of Childrenand Youth Experiencing Homelessnesshttp://nche.ed.govBEST PRACTICES IN HOMELESS EDUCATION BRIEF SERIESDetermining Eligibility for McKinney-Vento Rights and ServicesThis NCHE brief explores in detail the definition of homeless included in Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento HomelessAssistance Act, and provides a step-by-step guide for making determinations of McKinney-Vento eligibility on a case-by-case basis.INTRODUCTIONChildren and youth experiencing homelessness faceunique challenges in accessing and succeeding in school.Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento HomelessAssistance Act, reauthorized in 2015 by Title IX, Part Aof the Every Student Succeeds Act (42 U.S.C. § 11431et seq.; hereafter the McKinney-Vento Act), establishesthe definition of homeless used by U.S. public schools,and the educational rights to which children and youthexperiencing homelessness are entitled. For schools tobe able to provide services to students in homelesssituations, they first must be able to identify thesestudents. To this end, an effective understanding of theMcKinney-Vento definition of homeless is a key firststep to ensuring the delivery of needed supports to someof our nation’s most vulnerable students.MCKINNEY-VENTO DEFINITION OF HOMELESS42 U.S.C. § 11434a(2)The term “homeless children and youth”—A. means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, andadequate nighttime residence ; andB. includes —i.ii.iii.iv.children and youths who are sharing the housing ofother persons due to loss of housing, economichardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels,hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to thelack of alternative adequate accommodations; areliving in emergency or transitional shelters; or areabandoned in hospitals;children and youths who have a primary nighttimeresidence that is a public or private place notdesigned for or ordinarily used as a regular sleepingaccommodation for human beings ;children and youths who are living in cars, parks,public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandardhousing, bus or train stations, or similar settings;andmigratory children who qualify as homeless for thepurposes of this subtitle because the children areliving in circumstances described in clauses (i)through (iii).

This brief provides local homeless education liaisons 1(hereafter local liaisons) and other school personnel withan in-depth understanding of the McKinney-Ventodefinition of homeless. The brief also outlines a step-bystep process for making determinations of McKinneyVento eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Briefs onadditional homeless education topics are available athttps://nche.ed.gov/resources/.GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DETERMININGELIGIBILITYWhen making determinations of McKinney-Ventoeligibility, the most important and fundamental step isto familiarize yourself with the Act’s definition ofhomeless, paying close attention to legislative wording.Key legislative phrases may provide needed clarity whenevaluating whether a particular child’s or youth’s livingarrangement meets the definition. In addition, NCHErecommends the following considerations whendetermining eligibility:Remember to make determinations on a case-by-casebasis, considering what is known about each individualchild’s or youth’s circumstances.UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH EXPERIENCINGHOMELESSNESSWhile unaccompanied students are not referencedspecifically in the McKinney-Vento definition ofhomeless, unaccompanied children and youth whoseliving arrangements meet the McKinney-Ventodefinition of homeless are eligible for services underthe Act. The term unaccompanied youth is definedin the Act as “a homeless child or youth not in thephysical custody of a parent or guardian” [42 U.S.C.§ 11434a(6)]. For more information on servingunaccompanied youth under the McKinney-VentoAct, download Supporting the Education ofUnaccompanied Students ExperiencingHomelessness at th.pdf.contact with a student you believe might be experiencinghomelessness.A STEP-BY-STEP PROCESSUnderstand that some cases will be clear-cut and lendthemselves to easy determinations, while others mayrequire further inquiry and a more nuanced analysis.Requests for additional information from parents,guardians, or unaccompanied youth should beconducted privately and diplomatically.STEP 1: GET THE FACTSRemember that under the McKinney-Vento Act, thelocal liaison is charged with ensuring that homelesschildren and youth are identified by school personnelthrough outreach and coordination activities with otherentities and agencies [42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(6)(A)(i)].As such, while the Act establishes the need for acollaborative approach to identifying eligible students,the local liaison maintains the final authority for makingdeterminations. Local liaisons in some districts,particularly those with large student bodies, may chooseto appoint and train school-level points of contact toassist with determining eligibility. It is important tospeak with the local liaison in your district to determinewhat steps you should take should you come intoUse a housing questionnaire that asks about the child’sor youth’s living arrangement as part of your district’senrollment paperwork. If the questionnaire indicatesthat the student might be experiencing homelessness,refer the questionnaire to the school point-of-contact orlocal liaison for next steps. For sample housingquestionnaires that can be tailored for use in yourdistrict, visit https://nche.ed.gov/homeless-liaisontoolkit/.The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to designate anappropriate staff person, who may also be a coordinator for other Federalprograms, as a local liaison to carry out the duties described in the Act. [42U.S.C. § 11432(g)(1)( J)(ii)].1The first step in determining McKinney-Ventoeligibility is gathering information about the child’s oryouth’s situation. To this end, NCHE recommends thefollowing strategies:Avoid using the word “homeless” on school forms and inconversation with families or youth. Many families oryouth would not want to be called “homeless” due to thestigma that may be associated with the term. Further,families or youth may not consider themselves homelesseven though their living arrangement meets thedefinition.Determining Eligibility for McKinney-Vento Rights and Services2

If additional information is needed, explain to the familyor youth that you are requesting this information to helpyou determine whether the child or youth would beeligible for additional supports. Conduct thisconversation in a private space and in a diplomaticmanner, understanding that these conversations are verypersonal for the family or youth.Refrain from contacting people or agencies outside theschool system to seek more information about thefamily’s or youth’s situation. Information about theliving arrangement of a child or youth experiencinghomelessness is considered to be part of the student’seducation record and, as such, is covered by the privacyprotections included in the Family Educational Rightsand Privacy Act (FERPA) [42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(G)].CONFIRMING MCKINNEY-VENTO ELIGIBILITYIn the process of determining McKinney-Ventoeligibility, school districts may encounter instanceswhere they believe it may be necessary to take stepsto confirm information provided about a child’s oryouth’s living arrangement. In these cases, districtsmust ensure that all such efforts are reasonable,grounded in discretion and sensitivity, and inkeeping with the mandates of the FamilyEducational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Formore information, download Confirming Eligibilityfor McKinney-Vento Services nf-elig.pdf.STEP 2: ANALYZE THE FACTS.Now that you have gathered needed information, thenext step is to determine whether the child’s or youth’sliving arrangement meets the McKinney-Ventodefinition of homeless (see the McKinney-VentoDefinition of Homeless sidebar). To make adetermination of homelessness, consider whether thestudent’s living arrangement fits into one of the specificexamples listed in the definition. If not, considerwhether the student’s living arrangement, although notmentioned explicitly in the law, would be consideredhomeless because it is not fixed, regular, and adequate.See Appendix A: A Guide for Determining McKinneyVento Eligibility for more information on walkingthrough this process.STEP 3: SEEK ADDITIONAL INPUT, AS NEEDED.If, after gathering and analyzing available information,you still are not sure if a child or youth should beconsidered McKinney-Vento eligible, considerconsulting withthe local liaison in your district (if you are not yourdistrict’s local liaison) or in the neighboring district (ifyou are the local liaison and have a collegial relationshipwith neighboring liaisons).the State Coordinator for Homeless Education in yourstate. Visithttp://center.serve.org/nche/states/state resources.phpfor contact information.the National Center for Homeless Education helpline.Contact 800-308-2145 or [email protected], remember that determining eligibility is only thefirst step in providing students in homeless situationswith needed supports, as required by the McKinneyVento Act. Once your district determines that a child oryouth is McKinney-Vento eligible, the district andschool should provide all rights and services required bylaw. Visit the NCHE website at http://nche.ed.gov formore information.REFERENCESadequate. 1969. In Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (3rded.). Retrieved fromhttp://citizenlaw.com/pdf/a.pdfadequate. 2015. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrievedfrom omicile. 1969. In Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (3rd ed.).Retrieved from http://citizenlaw.com/pdf/d.pdfElementary and Secondary Education Act, as amendedby the Every Student Succeeds Act, 20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq. Retrieved fromhttp://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path /[email protected]/chapter70&edition prelimfixed. 2015. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved ateDetermining Eligibility for McKinney-Vento Rights and Services3

inhabitant. 1969. In Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (3rded.). Retrieved fromhttp://citizenlaw.com/pdf/i.pdfregular. 1969. In Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (3rd ed.).Retrieved from http://citizenlaw.com/pdf/r.pdfregular. 2015. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrievedfrom ubtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento HomelessAssistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11431 et seq.Retrieved fromhttps://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path on prelimU. S. Department of Education. (2017). Education forHomeless Children and Youths Program nonregulatory guidance. Retrieved 40ehcyguidance072716updated0317.pdfDetermining Eligibility for McKinney-Vento Rights and Services4

APPENDIX A: A GUIDE FOR DETERMINING MCKINNEY-VENTO ELIGIBILITYWhen determining eligibility for McKinney-Vento rights and services, it helps to follow an orderly process. Onceneeded information about a student’s circumstances has been gathered, consider whether the student would beconsidered homeless because the student’s living arrangement fits into one of the specific examples listed in theMcKinney-Vento Act’s definition of homeless. If not, would the student be considered homeless because his orher living arrangement, although not mentioned explicitly in the law, is not fixed, regular, and adequate?DOES THE STUDENT’S LIVING ARRANGEMENT FIT INTO ONE OF THE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES LISTED IN THE MCKINNEY-VENTOACT’S DEFINITION OF HOMELESS?To determine whether a student’s living arrangement is mentioned specifically in the definition of homeless, it ishelpful to consider the definition phrase by phrase.Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similarreasonSharing the housing of other persons implies that the family or youth is staying in someone else’s housing.Questions to help determine if this is the case include:Is the family or youth living in someone else’s residence as an urgent measure to avoid being on the street or inanother precarious situation?Where would the family or youth live if not sharing someone else’s housing?Does the family or youth have a legal right to be in the residence?Can the family or youth be asked to leave at any time with no legal recourse?Due to loss of housing implies that the family or youth has no personal housing available. Did the family oryouth lose their previous housing due toan eviction or an inability to pay the rent, mortgage, and/or other bills?destruction of or damage to the previous housing?abuse or neglect (such as in the case of a youth who leaves or is asked to leave the home)?an inadequate or hazardous physical environment caused by infestations, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence,or some other unsafe or untenable circumstance?the absence of a parent or guardian due to abandonment, death, incarceration, or a similar reason?Economic hardship implies that limited financial resources have forced the family or youth to leave personalhousing due to an inability to pay the rent, mortgage, and/or other bills, and share someone else’s housing. Theway that the shared housing came about and the intention of the residents are significant. Has the family or youthbeen forced to share someone else’s housing due to economic hardship caused by an accident or illness, the loss ofemployment or public benefits, or a similar reason?Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequateaccommodationsThe phrase due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations can help determine whether the named livingsituations would meet the definition of homeless.Appendix A: A Guide for Determining McKinney-Vento Eligibility5

Most families or youth living motels, hotels, or camping grounds are likely to be considered homeless, as thesearrangements are rarely fixed, regular, and adequate, or intended to serve as a permanent residence; howeverconsidering whether alternative adequate accommodations are available can help identify possible exceptions.Most trailers would be considered fixed, regular, and adequate residences; however asking questions about thecondition and size of the trailer, the number of people living there, the intended length of stay, and whether thefamily or youth needs and has an adequate alternative accommodation available can help identify possibleexceptions. For further consideration, see the discussion of substandard housing below.Living in an emergency or transitional shelterChildren and youth living in emergency or transitional shelters are considered homeless. This includes childrenand youth living in youth shelters, family shelters, domestic violence shelters, and transitional living programs.Abandoned in hospitalsThis portion of the definition is largely self-explanatory.Living in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleepingaccommodation for human beingsThis portion of the definition is largely self-explanatory.Living in a car, park, public space, abandoned building, substandard housing, bus or train station,or similar settingThis portion of the definition also is largely self-explanatory, with the exception of “substandard housing”. Whilethe law does not define this phrase, the U.S. Department of Education includes the following considerations fordetermining substandard housing in Question A-3 of its Education for Homeless Children and Youths ProgramNon-Regulatory Guidance (2017). In considering whether a living arrangement would be considered substandard,districts may consider whether the arrangementlacks one of the fundamental utilities, such as water, electricity, or heat;is infested with vermin or mold;lacks a basic functional part, such as a working kitchen or toilet; ormay present unreasonable dangers to adults, children, or persons with disabilities.Further, the Guidance states that standards for adequate housing may vary by locality, underscoring the need toconsider housing within the context of broader community norms and local or state building codes.Migratory children (as such term is defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and SecondaryEducation Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because thechildren are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii)Migrant children, as defined by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every StudentSucceeds Act [20 U.S.C. § 6399(3)]), are mentioned specifically in the definition of homeless, as migrant familiesoften live in conditions of poverty and may not be able to afford fixed, regular, and adequate housing. Migrantchildren and youth, however, are not categorically McKinney-Vento eligible; rather they are eligible to the extentthat their living arrangement is one described in the Act’s definition of homeless. For more information,download Migrant Students Experiencing Homelessness: Rights and Services under the McKinney-Vento Act igrant.pdf.Appendix A: A Guide for Determining McKinney-Vento Eligibility6

IF THE STUDENT’S LIVING ARRANGEMENT DOES NOT FIT INTO ONE OF THE SPECIFIC EXAMPLES LISTED IN THE MCKINNEYVENTO ACT’S DEFINITION OF HOMELESS, IS IT ANOTHER TYPE OF HOUSING THAT IS NOT FIXED, REGULAR, ANDADEQUATE?If the student’s living arrangement does not fit any of the specific situations listed in the law, the student stillmight be considered McKinney-Vento eligible if he or she lives in housing that would not be considered fixed,regular, and adequate. While the statute does not define these terms, the following working definitions may behelpful.Fixedplaced or attached in a way that does not move easily (Merriam-Webster.com)securely placed or fastened (Merriam-Webster.com)not subject to change or fluctuation (Merriam-Webster.com)Inhabitantone who, although he may not be a citizen, dwells or resides in a place permanently or has a fixed[emphasis added] residence therein, as distinguished from an occasional lodger or visitor (Ballentine’sLaw Dictionary)Domicilethe place where a person has his true fixed [emphasis added] permanent home and principalestablishment, and to which place he has, whenever he is absent, the intention of returning, and fromwhich he has no present intention of moving (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary)Regularhappening over and over again at the same time or in the same way; occurring every day, week, month, etc.(Merriam-Webster.com)recurring, attending, or functioning at fixed, uniform, or normal intervals (Merriam-Webster.com)conforming to an established rule, principle, or custom (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary)consistent; following a fixed procedure or schedule; acting or happening at uniform intervals (Ballentine’s LawDictionary)Adequatesufficient for a specific requirement (Merriam-Webster.com)fully sufficient; equal to what is required; lawfully and reasonably sufficient (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary)Appendix A: A Guide for Determining McKinney-Vento Eligibility7

This brief was developed by:National Center for Homeless Education800-308-2145 [email protected]://nche.ed.govUpdated March 2021The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) operates the U.S.Department of Education's technical assistance center for the federal Educationfor Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. NCHE is supported by theU.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students. Thecontents of this brief were developed under a grant from the Department; however,these contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department.Every state is required to have a State Coordinator for HomelessEducation, and every school district is required to have a localhomeless education liaison. These individuals oversee theimplementation of the McKinney-Vento Act. To find out whoyour State Coordinator is, visit the NCHE website C-Contact-list-.pdf.For more information on issues related to the education of children and youthexperiencing homelessness, contact the NCHE helpline at 800-308-2145 (tollfree) or [email protected] Contact Information:Add local contact information

explores in detail the definition of homeless included in Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and provides a step-by-step guide for making determinations of McKin