SchoolHouse Connection is a national non-profit organization working to overcome homelessness through education. We provide strategic advocacy and practical assistance in partnership with early childhood programs, schools, institutions of higher education, service providers, families, and youth.

The Issue

Child and youth homelessness is widespread and devastating – but hidden. Education can help break the cycle.



Hidden Homelessness: Why Child, Youth, and Family Homelessness is a Crisis We Cannot Ignore


Through first-person storytelling, the series explores the ways in which homelessness is an equity issue that is inextricably connected to others; it is an experience that many vulnerable student groups face at disproportionate rates and intersects deeply with other national crises of mental health, academic achievement gaps, xenophobia, and the impacts of systemic racism.


Hidden Homelessness: Youth Voices is a sub-series developed by SchoolHouse Connection that highlights the often overlooked and unseen experiences that define child and youth homelessness. Under the education subtitle of federal law (the McKinney-Vento Act), the definition of homelessness includes common situations for families and youth experiencing homelessness, including living in cars, temporarily staying with others, and in “substandard housing.”

Hidden Homelessness: Sheltered or Unsheltered, Homeless is Homeless.

When Eric was just nine years old, he was “living in a house that reeked of drugs, urine, and filled with trash. To make it worse, there was no running water, electricity, or gas.” Despite living in these traumatic and challenging conditions, he did everything he could to hide what was going on from his teachers at his school. He didn’t want to get reported to Child Protective Service, and be separated from his mom. Eric had a childhood that nobody should have to experience, yet so many do.

Today, Eric is in college, living in his own apartment, and working full-time. He has running water, electricity, gas, and food. Most importantly, Eric feels safe.

In his essay, Eric writes: “While I’m thankful for this new phase of life, I grieve for the younger me brushing his teeth in the gas station bathroom. That time of my life is over, but it still impacts me to this day. Looking back, I had various physical roofs over my head while I was experiencing homelessness, but the instability, lack of resources, trauma, and abuse I faced under those roofs at times made it worse than not having one at all.”

Hidden Homelessness: “If I could characterize my experiences with homelessness in one word, it would be ‘unstable.’”

Throughout Brandon’s youth, he experienced homelessness while staying temporarily in hotels or motels and living temporarily with others. In his essay, Brandon looks back on these traumatic experiences of homelessness and the impact they had on his life. He writes: “Back then, I didn’t have nearly enough wisdom to put all these experiences into context…I internalized how I was feeling and didn’t seek help from outside sources… Without a healthy outlet to express my frustration, stress, and confusion, I was simultaneously experiencing some of the worst depression I’d ever had in my life, which affected my academic performance and made me feel like I was losing my ticket out of poverty.”

A SchoolHouse Connection scholarship changed his life and supported him in pursuing higher education. Brandon closes his piece writing: “If you or someone you know is a student struggling with homelessness, it’s important to reach out to your school to see what resources and support are available to you in your area. There are often people whose entire job is to find a way to help you get safe and stable housing. You don’t have to struggle with this alone.”

Hidden Homelessness: “This safe space gave me freedom and it unblocked my brain to dream again.”

Syerra is a SchoolHouse Connection Youth Scholar who experienced homelessness while staying temporarily with others and in “substandard housing.” Describing herself as a “survivor” throughout her essay, Syerra is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and plans to purse a law degree in child advocacy.

In her essay, she writes: “These programs have given me hope. They allowed me to speak, to cry, and to let out all of the hurt and pain. This safe space gave me freedom and it unblocked my brain to dream again. They have helped me a lot and are a true example of the type of child advocate educator I want to be.”

Hidden Homelessness: Homeless With A Roof Over My Head

Storm Bryant has experienced homelessness, while living under a roof — staying temporarily in hotels or motels and living temporarily with others. Youth experiencing homelessness in these conditions face comparable trauma and challenges as those who live unsheltered, but are often harder to identify and are either not considered to be homeless or not prioritized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), thus making them unable to obtain homelessness assistance through HUD.

Hidden Homelessness: The Search for Home and Hope for the Future

Living in “substandard housing” is considered an experience of homelessness by the McKinney-Vento Act if “the setting in which the family, child, or youth is staying living lacks 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 a working toilet; or may present unreasonable dangers to adults, children, or persons with disabilities” (USED Guidance, March 2017, A-3). Anthony’s story seeks to raise awareness of the realities of this kind of homelessness experienced by youth across the nation.

Hidden Homelessness: For a Student Experiencing Homelessness, The Power of a Caring Educator Can Make All the Difference

Hidden Homelessness: High School is Hard. But Imagine The Mental Toll of Experiencing Homelessness Through It.



Act by March 17 to Support Funding for Homeless Children & Youth

A bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter is circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives that calls for $800 million for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program and $300 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program in the FY 2024 budget. Please urge your U.S. Representative to sign on to the bipartisan Davis-Bacon-Panetta letter.

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The Pitfalls of HUD’s Point-in-Time Count for Children, Youth, and Families

On December 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part I (AHAR), boasting continuous decreases in both family and youth homelessness. In this brief, we explain why HUD’s data are flawed and misleading, and why other federal data sources provide a more accurate picture of child, youth, and family homelessness.

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Early Childhood

Infants are at greater risk of living in homeless shelters than any other age group in the United States. Early childhood programs prevent the harmful life-long effects of homelessness on education, health and well-being.


In the 2019-20 school year, public schools identified nearly 1.3 million homeless students. Schools provide basic needs, caring adults, stability, normalcy, and the skills to avoid homelessness as adults.

Higher Education

The majority of well-paying jobs created today require education beyond high school. Post-secondary attainment is increasingly necessary to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, and live a healthy, productive life.

Unaccompanied Youth

Unaccompanied homeless youth are young people experiencing homelessness who are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness each year.


How to Contact your McKinney-Vento Liaison

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Click HERE to find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.

Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator.

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