Homelessness in Indiana
Youth homelessness is complicated a issue. Youth who experience homelessness are more likely than their peers to repeat a grade, be placed in special education programs, and to drop out of school. With information from the Indiana Department of Education, we hope you will better understand what it means to be homeless, what challenges this brings, and what solutions and supprts are available.
What defines homelessness?
Children and youth experiencing homelessness find shelter in a variety of places. To help educators identify homeless children, the McKinney-Vento Act defines who is considered homeless. According to the U.S. Department of Education, people living in the following situations are considered homeless:
- Children living in “doubled-up” accommodations, such as sharing housing with other families or individuals, are considered homeless if they are doubled-up because of loss of housing or economic hardship.
- Children living in motels and hotels for lack of other suitable housing.
- Children or youth who have run away from home and live in shelters, abandoned buildings, the streets, or other inadequate accommodations, even if their parents have provided and are willing to provide a home for them.
- Throwaway children (i.e., those whose parents or guardians will not permit them to live at home) are considered homeless if they live on the streets, in shelters, abandoned buildings, or in other transitional or inadequate accommodations.
- School-aged unwed mothers or expectant mothers living in homes for unwed mothers and have no other available living accommodations.
- Children remaining in a hospital because they have been abandoned by their families and are homeless because they have no other place to live.
- Migratory children, to the extent that they are staying in accommodations not fit for habitation. Migratory children should not be considered homeless simply because they are children of migratory families.
- Children staying temporarily in trailer parks or camping areas because of inadequate living accommodations.
- Children and youth awaiting placement in a foster home or a home for neglected children.
- Children who are staying in emergency or domestic violence shelters or in transitional housing programs.
As parents raising children while trying to manage the difficulties of homelessness, the last thing to worry about is your children's education. The McKinney-Vento Act was created to give children some rights as families navigate to find permanent housing. Your children's rights include:
- The right to enroll immediately, even if you don't have all the required paperwork. Schools normally require parents to have birth certificates, proof of residency, school records, and medical records with them when they enroll their children. If you are experiencing one of the housing situations covered by the McKinney-Vento Act, then you can enroll your children without these documents, although you may need to get some of them later.
- The right to school placement at the school in their best interest. Your children may go to the school they attended when they were permanently housed, also called their school of origin, even if you are not staying in that district. Alternatively, your children may attend the school where you are temporarily staying. This right lasts the entire duration of your homelessness or until the end of the school year after you achieve permanent housing.
- The right to transportation services. Schools must provide your children with transportation to their school, if feasible, until you get permanent housing. Parents who need this service for their children should request it from the McKinney-Vento Liaison.
- The right to other services. The fees for breakfast and lunch provided by the school, as well as the fees for textbooks, should be waived for your children. They also are automatically eligible for Title I services which may include before- and after-school programs, tutoring programs, or other assistance such as graphing calculators required for math classes.
- The right to appeal decisions regarding enrollment and services. If the school district makes a decision about your child's school enrollment or the services that your child receives (such as transportation) that you disagree with, you have the right to appeal that decision. The school's McKinney-Vento Liaison should be contacted immediately to assist you with the appeal. While the dispute with the school district is being resolved, your child has the right to attend the school or receive the services in question.
- The right to attend school and school activities without the fear of being singled out. Children in unstable housing situations cannot be separated from their peers just because of their housing situation. They have the right to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities just like any other student.
The McKinney-Vento Act provides certain rights for homeless students. They include waiving certain requirements such as proof of residency when students are enrolling and allowing eligibility for certain services, such as free textbooks. The Act also states:
- Homeless students may attend their school of origin or the school where they are temporarily residing;
- Homeless students must be provided a written statement of their rights when they enroll and at least two times per year;
- Homeless students may enroll without school, medical, or similar records;
- Homeless students have a right to transportation to school;
- Students must be provided a statement explaining why they are denied any service or enrollment;
- Students must receive services, such as transportation, while disputes are being settled;
- Students are automatically eligible for Title I services;
- School districts must reserve a portion of Title IA funds to serve homeless students;
- School districts must review and revise policies that provide barriers to homeless students;
- Schools must post information in the community regarding the rights of homeless students, in schools and other places that homeless families may frequent; and
- School districts must identify a McKinney-Vento Liaison to assist students.