Overlooked and Almost Out of Time: Pandemic-Era Funds for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Executive Summary

At a time of increasing and unprecedented homelessness – with more children and youth living without safe, stable housing than during the pandemic – schools are running out of time to use federal pandemic-era funds dedicated to helping homeless students. While the pandemic is officially over, the crisis of homelessness is unabated and growing. Without urgent action at all levels — congressional, federal, state, and local — an extraordinary opportunity to help some of our nation’s most vulnerable students will be missed, prolonging and exacerbating broader educational challenges for schools and students.

This report presents key findings from a national survey of school district homeless liaisons about the impact of and challenges using American Rescue Plan – Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds. It finds that:

“Now that there is a better understanding of how ARP-HCY funds can be used and we have developed a stronger collaborative system with outside agencies, extending the time allotted for spending these funds would be beneficial. This would enable us to intentionally provide needed assistance to our families, without duplication.”
– West Virginia
“I am not sure how funds are used because whenever the building liaisons request assistance for things like glasses, cab transportation, clothing, etc., we are advised that we need to exhaust ALL community resources before we can help families. There is not enough time in the day to call community partners for every family in need. Sometimes it is a reasonable ask, but often we are out of luck. I have yet to make any purchases for families this school year. I feel like we are creating more barriers for families.”
– New Hampshire
“The ability to provide a store card for groceries has been a life-saver for our families. I can hardly believe I won that fight with finance, but persistence paid off, literally. Transportation by use of Special Education buses for school of origin is currently non-existent due to logistics and the fact that our SpEd buses are already at capacity with hundreds of SpEd students. ARP-HCY funds have afforded taxi use when city bus passes won’t work for young children or families with similar working hours. These funds have made all the difference in the world to these vulnerable students.”
– Alaska
“We have been able to support our rapidly growing McKinney-Vento population with hotels, school supplies, uniforms, hygiene items, and extra support services for academic growth. Having the money available when we have an urgent need makes all the difference for our families in need.”
– Arizona
“I am beyond grateful for the funds we have received. However the stress of spending the money in a short amount of time, and some of the stipulations, are making it challenging to fulfill all the needs of the grant. I just want to be able to help our students, and some of the hoops we have to jump through along the way make it difficult in urgent situations.”
– Michigan
“ARP has allowed us our first step in building up our relationships with families. That was a large barrier in families’ willingness to have conversations and shop at the Family Resource Center to be their own advocates. With games to check out and gas cards available, two of the most asked for supports from families, the families seem to be feeling heard and open to further collaboration.”
– Washington State

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Acknowledgements & Dedication

SchoolHouse Connection is profoundly grateful to Samira Soleimanpour and Sara Geierstanger at the Institute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco for their guidance and counsel on methodology, and Jen Erb-Downward of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan for her expert review and editing.

This report is dedicated to school district homeless liaisons across the nation who carry the hopes and dreams of children, youth and their families in their hearts, and who persist in systems that sometimes do not see them or value their work. We hope this report does justice to your experiences, and elevates your voices to decision makers at every level.