You must fill out a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year that you’re applying for college. If you are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or at risk of being homeless, you will need to provide additional documentation every year. This resource will help you navigate answering the questions about homelessness and how to request that additional documentation.

In the first few sections of the FAFSA, you will enter your personal and demographic information. You will then be asked the following questions:

Question: On or after July 1, 2021, were you homeless or were you self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

If you meet the definition of homelessness described HERE, you can answer YES to this question.

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If your situation falls into one of the categories HERE and you are not in the physical custody (living with) a parent or guardian, your living situation meets the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth and you do not need to enter your parent or guardian’s information on your FAFSA.

If you are experiencing homelessness but living with and/or receiving support from your parents, you will answer NO to the following questions, because you are not an unaccompanied homeless youth.

Question: At any time on or after July 1, 2021, did you receive a determination letter from any of the entities listed below that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless? Select all that apply or “None of the above”.

If you think you can check the box YOUR HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMELESS LIAISON, here is what you will do:

Current High School Students: 

  • Were you identified as an unaccompanied homeless youth this school year by a McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison [i] or another high school staff member who knew about your homelessness? If so, check the box YOUR HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMELESS LIAISON
  • After you complete your FAFSA, reach out to your homeless liaison and request a letter verifying that you are an unaccompanied homeless youth. If you’d like to send an email requesting the letter, we have provided a sample email you can use here. 

Current College Students:

  • If you were identified as an unaccompanied homeless youth while you were in high school and your McKinney-Vento Liaison is still in contact with you, you can reach out to request that they provide you with an updated determination letter even though you are no longer in high school. With that said, the liaison will only be able to provide a determination for you if they feel as though they have the information necessary to do so and they can decline the request if they do not have enough information and they are not comfortable making the determination. 
  • Skip this question for now and contact your liaison to ask if they can provide you with an updated determination letter (sample email available here). 
  • If your liaison responds and agrees to make a determination, check the box YOUR HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMELESS LIAISON.

[i] The list is constantly updated and information. You can also reach out to your state coordinator if you cannot find your liaison on this list.

If you think you can check the box THE DIRECTOR OF AN EMERGENCY SHELTER OR TRANSITIONAL HOUSING PROGRAM FUNDED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, here is what you will do:

[Link to Emergency Shelter or Transitional Housing Program]

  • On or after July 1, 2021, did you reside in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program as an unaccompanied homeless youth? If so, reach out to the Director of the facility to ask if they are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If so, you can receive a determination letter for your FAFSA (sample email available here). 
  • If the Director says that they can provide a determination, check the box THE DIRECTOR OF AN EMERGENCY SHELTER OR TRANSITIONAL HOUSING PROGRAM FUNDED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT. 
If you think you can check the box THE DIRECTOR OF A RUNAWAY OR HOMELESS YOUTH BASIC CENTER OR TRANSITIONAL LIVING PROGRAM, here is what you will do:
  • On or after July 1, 2021, did you receive services from a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program as an unaccompanied homeless youth? If so, reach out to the Director of the program to ask if you can receive a determination letter for your FAFSA (sample email available here). 
  • If the Director says that they can provide a determination, check the box THE DIRECTOR OF A RUNAWAY OR HOMELESS YOUTH BASIC CENTER OR TRANSITIONAL LIVING PROGRAM.

If you meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth found HERE, but you answered NONE OF THE ABOVE, here is what you will do: 

  • Send an email to your financial aid administrator requesting that they assist you with getting a determination as an unaccompanied homeless youth (sample email available here). 
  • Meet with your financial aid administrator to receive your determination after completing your FAFSA. Tips to prepare for meeting your financial aid administrator can be found here
  • You will receive a homeless acknowledgment question that confirms you are an unaccompanied homeless youth or at risk of being homeless and will not be providing parental information.

Frequently Asked Questions:

These FAQs are real questions that we receive from youth experiencing homelessness while filling out the FAFSA. If you have a FAFSA related question, please email info@schoolhouseconnection.org.

What if I’m homeless but I live with and/or receive support from my parents?

You will fill out the FAFSA normally and enter your parent/guardian’s personal and tax information.

What does “self-supporting and at risk of being homeless” mean?

Self-supporting is “when a student pays for his own living expenses, including a fixed, regular, and adequate housing.” At risk of being homeless is “when a student’s housing may cease to be fixed, regular, and adequate.” For example, a student who is being evicted and has been unable to find fixed, regular, and adequate housing. 

If I’m living in a dorm am I still experiencing homelessness?

If you are living in a dorm/residence hall, but would otherwise have nowhere to live, you meet the definition of homelessness. 

Why do I need a determination letter?

A determination letter stating that you are an unaccompanied homeless youth will allow you to fill out the FAFSA as an independent student without parent/guardian information. 

Do I need a new determination letter every year?

As of now, you most likely will need a new letter each year. With that said, some universities have processes in place that will not require a new letter, so it is best to reach out to the financial aid office to explain your situation and ask what options are available. 

I reached out to my liaison/shelter director and they don’t know how to create a determination letter. What should I do?

You can send them this link, which has a sample determination letter that they can use.

 

What if I don’t have a permanent address?

If you do not currently have a permanent address, you may use another address like a P.O. Box where you can receive correspondence. You can also reach out to your college financial aid office to assist you. 

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