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.





Young People Explain Four Higher Education Bills

On Wednesday, May 11, SchoolHouse Connection, John Burton Advocates for Youth, and the Youth Law Center, organized a Congressional briefing in collaboration with the Offices of Representative Danny Davis and Senator Bob Casey. Senator Patty Murray was an honorary co-host. Young people with lived experience in the foster care system and with homelessness explained four higher education bills that would have a significant and positive impact on the lives and futures of young people. These young leaders also discussed the need for reform of the Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program and in the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement for federal financial aid.

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I got a referral from a mother and child who are staying in a transitional housing program run by a local substance abuse treatment program. The housing program is not a homeless transitional housing situation; it’s just a continuation of the parent’s treatment. Is the student eligible under McKinney-Vento?

Answer: Since the parent is in the program for substance abuse treatment and not due to homelessness necessarily, you need to talk with the parent about what their housing situation was prior to entry into the program. If the family has (or had) a fixed, regular, and...

I am working with a 17 year old student who is on her own and trying to apply for a U.S. passport. She doesn’t know where her parents are. Do you have suggestions for how she can obtain one?

Answer: Unfortunately, she must show that at least one parent is aware that she’s applying for a passport. There does not appear to be any way around that requirement until she turns 18. More information is available on this website. Read more Q&A from Our...

I have a question about eligibility in doubled-up situations, when a mom moves in with a boyfriend. Eligibility is clear when one partner was evicted, so they moved in with the other partner. However, what guidance can you provide when one partner moves in with the other, and both are contributing somewhat to the household. In this case, would we identify the students under McKinney-Vento?

A: Every situation needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are questions you'll want to consider when thinking about the situation you described: Was there a loss of housing? Are they sharing housing due to financial hardship? Are they both on the lease...

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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