A bipartisan amendment to the American Rescue Plan Act provided an historic $800 million to support the identification, enrollment, and school participation of children and youth experiencing homelessness, including through wrap-around services. While these funds (known as American Rescue Plan – Homeless Children and Youth, or ARP-HCY funds) are one-time funds which must be obligated by September 2024 and spent by January 2025, they have the potential to create lasting changes in how our nation’s public schools and communities respond to student homelessness, while at the same time meeting urgent needs.

ARP-HCY Funds Are Uniquely Flexible. States and districts may use ARP-HCY funds for any of the allowable activities under the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. In addition, ARP-HCY allows for additional uses that were not previously permitted.

Despite these opportunities, some state and local educational agencies may be hesitant to take advantage of the new flexibility provided by ARP-HCY. In some instances, this hesitancy stems from fears about liability or potential misuse of funds. In other cases, reluctance to use funds in new ways results from lack of tools or established processes — for example, not having a way to track and reimburse families for gas vouchers for school transportation. Finally, layers of approval or extensive bureaucratic processes can impede using ARP-HCY funds in the most effective way possible.

This series highlights some specific uses of ARP-HCY funds; explains why these uses may be beneficial for students experiencing homelessness; provides strategies to address common concerns; and highlights how some school districts are using ARP-HCY funds for these purposes. This information is intended to help local schools make the most of this historic opportunity to support some of our nation’s most vulnerable and resilient learners at a time of growing need.

➡️ #1: Removing Barriers with Store Cards and Pre-Paid Debit Cards

➡️ #2: Transportation

➡️ #3: Emergency Motel Stays 

➡️ #4: Expanding Staff Capacity

➡️ #5: Transition from High School to Postsecondary Education

➡️ #6: Early Childhood

➡️ #7: Supporting Immigrant Students

REMINDER: ARP-HCY funds may be used for “any expenses necessary to facilitate the identification, enrollment, retention, or educational success of homeless children and youth in order to enable homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities.” Broad categories included in ED guidance include:

  • Providing wrap-around services (which could be provided in collaboration with and/or through contracts with community-based organizations, and could include academic supports, trauma-informed care, social-emotional support, and mental health services);
  • Purchasing needed supplies (e.g., personal protective equipment, eyeglasses, school supplies, personal care items);
  • Providing transportation to enable children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities; 
  • Purchasing cell phones or other technological devices for unaccompanied, homeless children and youth to enable such children and youth to attend school and fully participate in school activities;
  • Providing access to reliable, high-speed internet for students through the purchase of internet-connected devices/equipment, mobile hotspots, wireless service plans, or installation of Community Wi-Fi Hotspots (e.g., at homeless shelters), especially in underserved communities;
  • Paying for short-term, temporary housing (e.g., a few days in a motel) when such emergency housing is the only reasonable option for COVID-safe temporary housing and when necessary to enable the homeless children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities (including summer school); and
  • Providing store cards/prepaid debit cards to purchase materials necessary for students to participate fully in school activities.”

In addition, LEAs may use funds for any of the sixteen uses permitted by the McKinney-Vento Act (42 U.S.C. 11433(d)).

Children and youth experiencing homelessness often lack basic items needed to attend school and participate fully in school activities: clothing, shoes, food, laundry, hygiene supplies, and school supplies. WIthout these items, they miss school and can become disengaged from their education, contributing to chronic absence, poor academic performance, and higher dropout rates. In fact, the 2019-2020 national average graduation rate for homeless students was 68.2%, which is 13 percentage points below other low-income students (81.3%) and nearly 18 percentage points below all students (86.5%).

Store cards and pre-paid debit cards are an efficient and effective way to equip students for school and remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success. They eliminate the need for liaisons to shop for specific sizes and needs or find a place to store supplies.  In addition, store cards allow families and youth to select items that meet their unique needs and that they will use.

The U.S. Department of Education specifically names store cards and pre-paid debit cards to purchase materials necessary for students to participate in school activities as an allowable use of ARP-HCY funds, and does not prescribe any particular method of tracking these expenses. As with all ARP-HCY funds, it is recommended that the LEA first use community resources to meet these needs, if such resources are reasonably available.

⚙️Strategies

School districts have used the following strategies to ensure effective use of store cards to meet basic needs:

  • Create online forms that are accessible on a phone or other device for parents or youth to affirm the use of the card
  • Require submission of receipts to document purchases with store cards
  • Purchase cards that cannot be used for alcohol and tobacco
  • Require parents or youth to sign for cards when received

📎Sample Forms/Procedures

California’s Homeless Education Technical Assistance Center offers sample forms, letters, and procedures for making the most of store cards/pre-paid debit cards.

Store Card Tracker from Clifton Public Schools, NJ

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY to Meet Basic Needs Through Store Cards

Food and Winter Clothing: Middletown Public Schools, RI

In Middletown, RI, decisions on the best use of ARP-HCY funds were guided by weekly communications and check-ins with families, during which time it became clear that families needed support with food and winter clothing. The Family Services Coordinator is using ARP-HCY funds to purchase supermarket and store gift cards so families are able to purchase these items. Gift cards are purchased in collaboration with the district business office, who submits purchase orders through existing store accounts.

Hygiene Supplies, Food, Clothing: Clifton Public Schools, NJ

Clifton Public Schools prioritized the immediate needs of students by purchasing store cards from local retailers such as Walgreens, Target, and Shoprite. The district obtained gift cards in quantities of $50 cards from Shoprite and $25 cards for gas cards, which were then distributed to families by the Supervisor of Counseling and Student Services. The supervisor conducted one-on-one meetings with families to assess their needs and to ask them to choose items that they need the most, such as food, hygiene supplies, and clothing. The store cards were then used to procure the chosen items, and delivery was arranged to the school or the family’s location. CPS staff ensured proper documentation of the type of gift cards provided, with both the school and family acknowledging receipt of the items. Gas cards were also distributed to students who were waiting for district transportation services to commence. The use of store cards has led to an increase in the identification of students experiencing homelessness, as families seek assistance with the cards and share their housing situation with CPS.

📢 “It’s important for business office staff to be open to new and creative ways of using funds to better serve our students. Purchasing store cards can be an effective way to provide support to individuals in need, especially during challenging times. As business office staff, we should always be looking for ways to make the most of our resources and help our students achieve their goals. We were fortunate to receive a generous amount of funding from the ARP grant that we know will positively impact our students educational experience and help level the playing field. Ms. Tremble did all the heavy lifting and spent countless hours on finding innovative ways to help our students.  I hope I can help inspire other business office staff to explore more flexible uses of funds.”

Ahmed Shehata

Assistant Business Administrator, Clifton Public Schools, NJ

Basic Needs: Fairfax County Public Schools: Fairfax, VA

Fairfax County Public Schools partners with the school district’s education foundation to purchase store cards for basic needs in bulk. ARP-HCY funds are transferred into a special account with the education foundation, who then purchases store cards and returns them to the liaison to distribute to students.

Lack of transportation is a tremendous obstacle to regular school attendance and success for children and youth experiencing homelessness. They have little control over where they are staying, and can be forced to leave at a moment’s notice. As a result, they move frequently. Families and youth experiencing homelessness also have limited funds for cars, car repairs, auto insurance, gas, or public transportation. Without reliable transportation, regular school attendance is impossible, and contributes to high chronic absence rates among these students; in fact, the chronic absence rate of students experiencing homelessness is twice the rate of other students, and may be a significant factor driving chronic absence rates in districts, particularly if unidentified and unaddressed.

Federal law (the McKinney-Vento Act) requires school districts to remove barriers to enrollment and retention, including transportation barriers. Even when McKinney-Vento families and youth move outside of district boundaries, they are entitled to transportation in order to continue attending their school of origin, if it is in their best interest. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) guidance makes clear that ARP-HCY funds may be used to provide transportation to enable children and youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities.

⚙️Strategies

In response to specific requests from state and local educational agencies, ED has approved many flexible transportation-related uses of funds if it is reasonable and necessary in a particular context, including:

  • Gas cards
  • Car repairs
  • Auto insurance
  • Ride shares
  • Drivers’ education
  • The purchase of vehicles (for the school district)
  • Bicycles 
  • Transportation coordinators

Some school districts have found that using ARP-HCY funds for items such as car repairs and gas cards is particularly cost effective for the student and the district. Similarly, using ARP-HCY funds for longer-term investments like purchasing a vehicle for the purpose of transporting students experiencing homelessness helps ensure that school attendance is immediate and uninterrupted. These school districts have tackled concerns about tracking, liability, and potential misuse to maximize the power of ARP-HCY to improve attendance and participation, which are prerequisites for academic success.

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY to Meet Transportation Needs

Car Repairs: Anchorage School District, AK

The Anchorage School District found that paying for car repairs for families or youth who have cars is more economical than providing cab services. If a family reaches out to the homeless education program, staff determine if car repairs are feasible, and ask the family or youth to obtain an estimate. The program will pay approximately $200 in car repair costs (adjusted on a case-by-case basis), and families are asked to pay a portion of the expense. Once the repair is completed, staff use a school district credit card to pay the cost, submitting receipts with the car repair business name and amount to the district’s business office.

Vehicle Purchase: Lawton Public Schools, OK

Prior to ARP-HCY, Lawton Public Schools employed traveling counselors to provide interim transportation so that students did not miss school during the time between requesting transportation and obtaining it. However, variation in counselors schedules made these arrangements unreliable. To improve consistency of interim transportation, the district used ARP-HCY funds to purchase a vehicle. The vehicle also will be used for virtual students experiencing homelessness to access school services, for “home” visits to students and families, and to transport students to health services. 

Gas Cards: Stockton Unified School District, CA 

Stockton Unified School District uses gas debit cards, in conjunction with a verification of attendance and receipts. Families sign an agreement and submit receipts. The school district staff monitors attendance to ensure gas cards are used for school transportation.

Many communities lack emergency shelter for families and/or for youth. Where shelters do exist, they are often full, unable to serve families as a unit, or do not accept youth who are minors who are homeless on their own (unaccompanied youth). When families and youth are not able to access shelter, they stay in cars, campgrounds, or temporarily with other people in situations that are unstable, often unsafe, and put them at risk of trafficking. These unstable situations not only threaten the well-being of children and youth, they create barriers to regular school attendance and participation.

The U.S. Department of Education specifically allows ARP-HCY funds to be used for “paying for short-term, temporary housing (e.g., a few days in a motel) when such emergency housing is the only reasonable option for COVID-safe temporary housing and when necessary to enable the homeless child or youth to attend school and participate fully in school activities (including summer school).”

Paying for a few nights in a motel stabilizes the living situation of students while longer-term housing arrangements are sought, thus helping students be able to participate fully in school. In addition, when ARP-HCY funds are used to pay for a family or youth to stay in a motel room, that family or youth then meets the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of homelessness. This can open up housing options for families and youth who meet the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of homelessness, but do not qualify under HUD’s definition.

School district business offices can help procedures to ensure funds are tracked and used appropriately, and any liability issues are addressed.

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY for Emergency Motel Stays

Temporary, Emergency Housing: Clifton Public Schools, New Jersey

Clifton Public Schools allocated funds to meet areas of need. One such area is short-term, temporary hotel stays. CPS partnered with a community hotel to provide a few nights of stay for families (averaging about $1,000 per stay). Catholic Charities then extends the stay and links the family to other housing resources. The hotel contracts directly with families, so there are no liability concerns for the district, and store card items can be delivered directly to families at the hotel.

Motel 6 Partnership: Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, California

Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) developed a partnership with Motel 6 for families needing access to emergency housing. Homeless education staff worked with their district business office to track the funding. The school district receives monthly invoices directly from Motel 6, which it then pays with ARP-HCY Part II funds. MPUSD created a streamlined referral process to determine which families are eligible for the short-term emergency housing, and rooms are booked through the office of the Assistant Superintendent of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. The name of the district support staff working with the family is also entered into the booking system, so that Motel 6 has the direct contact information in case of any issues. Upon checking into the Motel 6, families sign a waiver accepting any liability. MPUSD and Motel 6 specifically included in their MOU that the school district is not liable for any damages incurred. See: Monterey Peninsula Unified Rate Agreement with Motel 6, Monterey Peninsula Unified Preferred Discount Agreement with Motel 6 

Leveraging Motel Partnerships in Rural Communities: Lafourche Parish, Louisiana

Lafourche Parish School District (LPSD) is a rural school district that decided to use their ARP-HCY funds to provide students experiencing homelessness and their families with short-term hotel stays for 3-5 days. To develop partnerships with hotels, the district’s Community Outreach Director wrote a letter outlining the definition of homelessness under McKinney-Vento, program information, and addressing the unique needs of families experiencing homelessness in LPSD. The district then worked with social work staff to develop clear guidelines around the case management that would be provided during their short-term stay at the hotel, including meals and transportation. When families arrive at the hotel, case managers walk families to their rooms as a way to provide the initial check-in and assess the support the family may need during their stay. With the success of the initial partnership, the district was then able to expand to work with three additional hotel sites in the community. The approval process for the purchase order initially was lengthy and made it difficult to meet the immediate needs of families. However, with the support of the District Federal Programs Director and district leadership, the transition was made to a district purchasing card. This allowed payment to be initiated at the time of the confirmation receipt from the hotel. After the 3-5 day stay, some families also might transition to the Parish Council who is able to fund additional days in the hotel. According to the McKinney-Vento liaison, the  hotel partnerships provide families a little extra time to figure out their next steps. ARP-HCY funds allowed the district to begin this program, and they hope to continue it through community partnerships after the funds are no longer available.

Community Partnership with Marriott: Cincinnati Public Schools, Ohio

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is using ARP-HCY funds to provide short-term emergency housing (1-3 days). CPS is contracting with a community-based organization called UpSpring, since UpSpring already held a contract with Marriott for discounted hotel room stays. In collaboration with district and UpSpring legal counsels, a contract was put in place with a specific process and an open purchase order for providing CPS families with short-term emergency housing. In addition to paying for the short-term hotel stays, the district uses ARP-HCY funds to pay the salary of a Systems Housing Navigator. When families experiencing homelessness meet with the Navigator, she determines the number of motel days that are approved, and sends a referral to UpSpring and to the director of the community’s largest shelter (if the family has no other housing arrangement). Once the family is in shelter, the Navigator follows up to see if the family will be housed through the shelter’s rapid rehousing program, or if they are interested in a CMHA (housing authority) housing voucher. If they are interested in a housing voucher, the Navigator sends a referral. This process allows families to be housed by the time the 30 days in shelter is up.

Hotels.Com Cards and Hotel Vouchers in California

Some school districts in California are providing short-term, emergency housing in several ways: One district has a partnership with hotels.com to provide a hotels.com card, using the rate listed on the website, for families to make their own reservation. This removes the liability concern from the district and places it on the parent, with the district paying hotels.com directly. San Diego Unified School District partners with Project Rest to provide hotel vouchers. Another California school district works with local outreach programs through Catholic ministries to help facilitate the distribution of temporary housing/motel vouchers.

While the McKinney-Vento Act requires that every school district designate a liaison to carry out ten specific duties to identify and support students experiencing homelessness, it is assigned to staff who have other duties. As a result, lack of staff capacity undermines the identification and services available to McKinney-Vento students, and limits community partnerships and coordination.

ARP-HCY funds can be used to increase staff capacity by expanding part-time positions, adding hours to existing staff, or contracting with community-based organizations for additional capacity. School districts have used ARP-HCY funds to support:

  • Outreach specialists
  • Early childhood coordinators
  • Transportation coordinators
  • Systems navigators (including housing navigators)
  • School social workers
  • Counselors
  • Academic specialists
  • Postsecondary specialists

⚙️Strategies for Sustainability 

To address concerns about sustainability of these positions after the deadline for ARP-HCY funds, school districts can consider the ways in which funding from other sources, like Title I, Title III, Title IV, etc., can be blended and braided to fund positions that will meet the targeted needs of students experiencing homelessness. Additionally, as states and districts make plans for sustainability, it is important to collect data on the outcomes that can be linked to staffing and increased capacity provided by ARP-HCY – for example, increased identification and attendance. These data can be used to make the case for continuing support in the future.

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY to Expand Staff Capacity

Visiting Teachers: Capital School District, Delaware

Capital School District employs two full-time visiting teachers focusing on attendance, foster care, and homelessness, and one part-time paraprofessional supporting the school district’s McKinney-Vento work. With ARP-HCY funds, the school district was able to turn a part-time position into a full-time staff member focusing on supporting students and families experiencing homelessness.

Behavior Interventionist: Washington Court House City Schools, Ohio

Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) is using ARP-HCY funds to provide tutoring and wraparound services. A data review showed that many students experiencing homelessness were struggling with behavior concerns.  With ARP-HCY funds, the district hired a McKinney-Vento Behavior Technician, who is trained by the district Prevention Coordinator. The district Prevention Coordinator, who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), goes into classrooms, assesses what interventions the student would benefit from, and then the McKinney-Vento Behavior Technician implements the interventions with students experiencing homelessness. This has allowed WCHCS to better support students with behavior struggles due to the trauma they’ve experienced, as well as to model interactions and communication strategies.

Ardmore City Schools, Oklahoma

ARP-HCY funds will provide the opportunity for the district to increase capacity to serve the homeless student population. Stipends will be given to staff, points of contact, at each school within the district to support identification (with a focus on unenrolled students and those who are in the early childhood education age-range). School site points of contact will also aid to increase awareness among teachers and parents about the rights and resources available for students and families experiencing homelessness.

Some form of postsecondary education is increasingly necessary to obtain employment that pays enough to afford housing and maintain stability. Higher education is thus a critical factor in ending the cycle of homelessness and improving the health and overall well-being of youth experiencing homelessness.

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, local educational agency (LEA) homeless liaisons are required to ensure that unaccompanied homeless youth are informed of their status as independent students for college financial aid and obtain assistance to receive verification for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, state McKinney-Vento plans must describe how homeless youth will receive assistance from school counselors to improve their readiness for college.

The pandemic greatly impacted many students’ abilities to pursue a postsecondary education due to the disruption in learning and academic preparedness, disengagement and loss of communication during virtual learning, and the youth mental health crisis. According to a recent national report, the number of unaccompanied homeless youth FAFSA determinations declined by about 10% during the 2020-2021 school year. Meanwhile, the number of FAFSA applicants who requested a homeless youth FAFSA determination, but did not receive it by the end of the financial aid award cycle, has steadily increased. This disparity highlights the increased need for assisting youth experiencing homelessness with the FAFSA to help them pursue postsecondary education. 

Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) explains that ARP-HCY funds supplement the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program and that all allowable EHCY uses apply to these funds. ED has approved using ARP-HCY funds for FAFSA support and other activities to ensure college readiness and transition. As with all ARP-HCY funds, it is recommended that the LEA first use community resources to meet these needs, if such resources are reasonably available.

⚙️Strategies 

School districts have used the following strategies to help students transition from high school to postsecondary education: 

  • Add capacity through extra hours for staff or through contracts with community-based organizations (e.g. graduation coaches, FAFSA mentors, transition coordinators, counselors) to help students complete the FAFSA, apply to colleges, and develop a plan for life after high school graduation 
  • Pay college students to mentor and provide peer support to current high school students
  • Use funds to bring students on a tour to local colleges in the area 
  • Provide laptops and wifi hotspots prior to high school graduation to allow students to complete high school while also applying for scholarships, FAFSA, and college
  • Participate in training to stay up-to-date on new FAFSA changes and the implications for homeless youth for the 2024-2025 school year

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY to Help with the Transition from High School to Postsecondary

Postsecondary Transition Coordinator: Cincinnati Public Schools: Cincinnati, OH 

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is using ARP-HCY funds to support the position of a Postsecondary Transition Coordinator who will work with students still in high school and help connect them to supports in their first year after graduation. CPS has contracted with a community-based organization to hire the position. The Coordinator will also provide support to students who experienced homelessness previously in their school career and help connect them to other supports in school. 

Student Navigators: North Thurston Public Schools: Lacey, WA

North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) used ARP-HCY funds to hire a student navigator for the Family and Youth Resource (FYR) Center, a comprehensive support center for 700 students and their families experiencing homelessness, and is a one-stop shop for connecting with support staff. The student navigators support students experiencing homelessness through activities such as completing the FAFSA, transitioning to higher education or postsecondary plans, obtaining birth certificates, advocating with teachers, and providing support toward graduation. The student navigators have helped to increase the graduation rate of students experiencing homelessness to 84%, surpassing the state graduation rate for all students. 

FAFSA Mentors: Frederick County: Frederick, MD 

Frederick County used ARP-HCY funds to create a FAFSA Mentor Program. This new initiative pairs mentors with seniors experiencing homelessness in an effort to provide support to complete the FAFSA, create a postsecondary plan, and strengthen organizational skills. The mentors will help students with questions, assist with the FAFSA, and ensure students know they are eligible for the Maryland tuition waiver. This document outlines the FAFSA Mentor Program and job description. 

Homelessness is a traumatic experience with long-term consequences, particularly for young children in their most critical stages of development. Approximately 1 million children under the age of six experienced homelessness in 2020-2021, yet homelessness among young children is hidden. It includes a range of living situations: 

  • a six-month-old living in a car with her family;
  • a family of five squeezed into a motel room;
  • a newborn in an emergency shelter;
  • a two-year-old on a series of floors next to a series of couches, moving with his mother from place to place as she stays with anyone who will take them in. 

Lack of shelter, fear of having children removed from parental custody, and restrictive eligibility criteria for housing programs mean that most young children experiencing homelessness stay in places that are not easily identified. Ensuring young children experiencing homelessness are connected to early childhood development opportunities is critical and can help mitigate the traumatic, often long-term impacts of homelessness. K12 school districts have a unique role to play in identifying and referring younger siblings of school aged children to high-quality early childhood development programs. 

ARP-HCY Funds Are Uniquely Flexible. States and districts may use ARP-HCY funds for any of the allowable activities under the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. In addition, the U.S Department of Education has approved other uses of ARP-HCY funding, which allows for supports for Early Childhood Education.

⚙️Strategies 

School districts have used the following strategies:

  • Add hours to increase capacity of staff to identify young children and ensure families with young children are enrolled in high quality early learning programs.
  • Partner with Head Start and Early Head start to develop a referral system so that liaisons can refer younger siblings experiencing homelessness for enrollment.
  • Conduct outreach during the summer for increased access to screenings and enrollment in early intervention services.
  • Increase joint training opportunities for both early childhood and K12 liaisons and educators to come together and learn more about the impacts of homelessness on young children, educational services and programs offered, and how they can work together to increase identification and referrals. 
  • Revise enrollment forms, questionnaires, and information to include questions about younger siblings.

States have used the following strategies:

  • Hire a statewide early childhood homelessness navigator, to serve as a link between early childhood programs and K12 school districts, ensuring younger siblings are being identified and referred.
  • Contract with the state Head Start Collaboration Office to increase identification and referrals, provide more cross-system training opportunities, and improve data collection and sharing.
  • Conduct an early childhood needs assessment that analyzes existing data and practices for identifying and referring young children experiencing homelessness, and identifies areas where state agencies can take action for improvement.

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY for Early Childhood

Grand Island Public Schools, Nebraska

When Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) received ARP-HCY funds, the district looked at their needs and quickly recognized supporting younger children experiencing homelessness during the summer was at the top of their priority list. GIPS currently has a Community Services Navigator who works with students and families identified under McKinney-Vento at the district’s Early Learning Center. With ARP-HCY Part I funds, the bilingual parent liaison will also be able to support the district’s youngest learners and their families over the summer, helping ensure they have access to food, clothing, summer programming opportunities, navigating connections to community partners, and helping ensure students and families experiencing homelessness have summer support. 

EdAdvance, Torrington, Connecticut

EdAdvance is one of Connecticut’s six Regional Educational Service Centers, and serves Western Connecticut. In addition to  using ARP-HCY funds to increase staffing capacity by hiring a part-time youth outreach case manager, EdAdvance also will be hiring an early childhood specialist. This specialist will conduct community outreach and enroll young children experiencing homelessness in school, early intervention programs, and other early childhood programs. This addresses needs determined in visits to domestic violence shelters and the local home visiting program, which revealed increased numbers of young children experiencing homelessness. In addition to these positions, EdAdvance will be hiring a part-time van driver to help meet the growing transportation needs of K-12 McKinney-Vento students, starting in the fall.

“Having additional ARP-HCY funds has been a gift to actually have resources at the ready for plans and the ability to make change with McKinney-Vento families by investing in staff to enhance outreach and support.”

-Michelle Anderson, Director of Early Childhood and Family Programs, EdAdvance

Regional Office of Education #3, Illinois

Illinois’ Regional Offices of Education partner with the Illinois State Board of Education to provide support services to school districts across the state. ROE #3 serves school districts across five counties and dedicated a portion of its ARP-HCY allocation towards increasing the identification and referral of young children experiencing homelessness. It hosted a regional conference targeted towards early childhood educators, for raising awareness of homelessness among young children and the importance of prompt identification. 

Akron Public Schools, Ohio

Akron Public Schools (APS) will partner with SPARK, a home visiting program designed to support the Kindergarten readiness of 3 and 4 year olds and help parents learn how to engage their child’s learning at home. Through SPARK, a part-time staff person will provide curriculum and support to children and their parents twice a month in the homes of 25 early learners each year. Using data to demonstrate need and effectiveness, APS will look for funding sources through community partnerships to continue SPARK after ARP-HCY funds are no longer available. 

💡State Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY for Early Childhood

Early Learning Navigator, Hawaii

The Hawaii Department of Education used ARP-HCY funds to hire a full-time Early Learning Navigator. The navigator, whose role is focused on connecting younger children experiencing homelessness with early childhood programs, will emphasize the identification of students ages 0-5 in order to connect them with early education and high-quality childcare services and to provide support to families in the transition to kindergarten. The Early Learning Navigator serves as a bridge between programs like Head Start and Early Head Start and the state’s homeless education liaisons.

School districts across the country are witnessing increasing numbers of immigrant children and youth, many of whom are staying in situations that meet the definition of homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. For example:

  • Staying in rented closet space on a rotating basis with other families
  • Sleeping on cots in a large-scale immigrant holding center 
  • Unsheltered, having been transported to a new city or state with no connections or resources, and sleeping on sidewalks in front of shelters or churches, in hospital hallways, and in bus stations
  • staying with other immigrant friends, family members, or sponsors in temporary, overcrowded situations because there is nowhere else to stay

In addition to experiencing homelessness, these children, youth, and families have often endured trauma during their immigration, and face numerous barriers enrolling and succeeding in school. They may feel fearful as they navigate a new country, new language, and new educational system, and be hesitant to share information about living situations.  Building trust with immigrant families is critical to ensuring identification and support. 

ARP-HCY Funds Are Uniquely Flexible. States and districts may use ARP-HCY funds for any of the allowable activities under the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. In addition, the U.S Department of Education has approved other uses of ARP-HCY funding that can help meet the unique needs of immigrant children and youth experiencing homelessness. 

⚙️Strategies 

School districts have used the following strategies to assist immigrant students experiencing homelessness:

  • Add capacity by hiring or adding hours to the position of a bilingual parent liaison to provide support and services over the summer
  • Add extended contract hours for social workers to connect to community resources to support the whole family 
  • Pay for translated (written) materials, as well as (oral) interpreters to review information
  • Partner with a community-based organization to increase identification, enrollment, and retention of immigrant students. 
  • Provide wraparound services to navigate housing resources. 
  • Provide mental health support to process immigration trauma

💡Local Spotlights: Using ARP-HCY to Support Immigrant Students

Grand Island Public Schools, Nebraska

When Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS) received ARP-HCY funds, the district looked at their greatest needs and quickly recognized supporting students experiencing homelessness during the summer was at the top of their priority list. Funded with ARP-HCY Part I, a bilingual parent liaison will be able to support the district’s youngest learners and their families over the summer, helping ensure they have access to food, clothing, and summer programming opportunities, and navigating connections to community partners. When possible, districts should make every effort to hire a parent who has been through the immigration experience, which can help build trust and strong relationships with other families.

South Portland School Department, Maine

In South Portland, Maine, approximately 90% of the students identified as experiencing homelessness are multilingual learners in their first U.S. school setting.  South Portland has worked hard to train enrollment staff on following the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act by enrolling immigrant students who lack school records, as well as ensuring translations and other culturally responsive services. The district funds two social workers to work specifically with McKinney-Vento students, paying for part of one social worker’s salary with ARP-HCY funds. These social workers partner with building points of contact to support the entire family across all grade spans, including a specific focus on working with immigrant families. 

Frederick County Public Schools, Maryland

Using ARP-HCY funds, Frederick County Public Schools is working with a community-based organization called Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland (SSCM) to hire a staff member to work as a bilingual community-based McKinney-Vento liaison. The liaison is responsible for supporting the identification, enrollment, and retention of Frederick County Public School students who are identified as experiencing homelessness. The SSCM McKinney-Vento liaison also works to connect students to services, specifically immigration and housing, along with other wraparound services. 

SSCM Brochure English
SSCM Brochure Spanish

Monte del Sol Charter School, New Mexico

When the application process for rental assistance became more cumbersome, immigrant families experiencing homelessness needed someone to help navigate the application in their native language. With ARP-HCY funds, the homeless liaison created a part-time Bilingual Benefits Navigator position to meet this need. The school hired a Navigator who was already a staff member and already had strong relationships with families and the community. The Navigator is primarily working on housing navigation, helping families apply for state rental and utility assistance. In addition, the Navigator assists with identification of students because of the relationships that have been established. Families trust her with information about their living situations that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with others. The Navigator is savvy in knowing how to help families with significant needs and has been critical in the school’s work with children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness who are also Spanish-speaking. 

Shakopee Public Schools, Minnesota

Shakopee Public Schools (SPS) is experiencing an increase in unaccompanied youth immigrating from Central America. These youth have significant mental health needs, from traveling alone to the U.S. and navigating the trauma of their immigration experience. The district chose to use ARP-HCY funds to contract with an individual therapist previously connected to the district. The therapist began to meet in small groups with a total of 15 immigrant youth experiencing homelessness. The groups addressed the trauma of their immigration experience, offered support for self-care, and provided space to manage and work through trauma. The district plans to expand this support to students in middle school, and is actively working to braid funding sources to continue to provide mental health support after ARP-HCY, in addition to actively recruiting additional bilingual staff. 

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