You must fill out a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year that you’re applying for college. Although the questions related to homelessness and foster care on the 2023-2024 FAFSA look the same as previous years, many new provisions for homeless and foster youth are in effect now. Please see here for the list of all the changes, which are designed to remove barriers and streamline the process of applying for financial aid. 

If you are filling out the FAFSA for the first time and are an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or at risk of being homeless and self-supporting, you will need to provide information to verify your status. This resource will help you navigate answering the questions about homelessness and how to request that additional information. 

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

On or after July 1, 2022, 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 do not meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth. You will fill out the FAFSA as instructed.

Question: At any time on or after July 1, 2022, 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”.

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NOTE: In addition to the entities listed on the FAFSA, there are now additional authorized entities who can verify that an applicant is an unaccompanied homeless youth. The updated list includes the following:

  • School district homeless liaisons or their designee;
  • The director or a designee of a director of an emergency or transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals who are experiencing homelessness;
  • The director or a designee of a director of a program funded under a TRIO or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for an Undergraduate program (“GEAR UP”) grant;
  • A financial aid administrator at the current institution or at another institution who previously made a determination.
If you think you have, had, or can get a determination of homelessness from YOUR HIGH SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT HOMELESS LIAISON OR THEIR DESIGNEE, here is what you will do:
  • Current High School Students: 
    • 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 provided a determination of your unaccompanied homeless youth status from your McKinney-Vento Liaison, you will be presumed to be independent for each subsequent year you are a student at the same institution. Your institution may ask if your homeless situation has changed, and you must inform your institution if it has.
If you stayed in or received services from an EMERGENCY OR TRANSITIONAL HOUSING PROGRAM FUNDED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT on or after July 1, 2022, here is what you will do:

[Link to Emergency Shelter or Transitional Housing Program]

  • Reach out to the program to ask if it is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 
  • If so, ask if the director or a designee will provide a determination or your FAFSA (sample email available here). 
    If you stayed in or received services from A RUNAWAY OR HOMELESS YOUTH BASIC CENTER OR TRANSITIONAL LIVING PROGRAM on or after July 1, 2022, here is what you will do:
    • Reach out to the program to ask if you can receive a determination for your FAFSA (sample email available here). 
    • If the director or a designee of 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.

    *NEW AUTHORIZED ENTITIES IN 2023* Reminder, there are new authorized entities that can provide unaccompanied homeless youth determinations even though they are not explicitly listed on the FAFSA. If you meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth found HERE, and:

    • Received services from any shelter or program that serves individuals experiencing homelessness (outside of HUD/RHYA shelters or programs)
    • Participated in a TRIO or GEAR UP program that knew you were experiencing homelessness on your own 
    • Were identified as an unaccompanied homeless youth by another financial aid administrator at a previous institution

      You will answer NONE OF THE ABOVE, and here is what you will do: 

      • Reach out to the shelter/program where you received services, the TRIO or GEAR UP program in which you participated, or the financial aid administrator at a previous institution who identified you as an unaccompanied homeless youth, and ask if they will provide a determination for you (find corresponding sample email available here).
      • Send an email to your financial aid administrator explaining that you have documentation from an authorized entity stating that you are an unaccompanied homeless youth (sample email available here).

      If you meet the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, but cannot provide any documentation from any of the authorized entities, you will also answer NONE OF THE ABOVE, and here is what you will do: 

      • Send an email to your financial aid administrator and explain that you are an unaccompanied homeless youth and are requesting a documented interview (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.

      If you have an unusual circumstance where you cannot provide information about your parents but are not an unaccompanied homeless youth, you may be considered independent through a dependency override. Dependency overrides are granted on a case-by-case basis as an exercise of the financial aid officer’s professional judgment. 

      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. We have an archived webinar on FAFSA Fixes for Homeless and Foster Youth that you can watch here.

      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. 

      Who can write a determination letter?
      • School district homeless liaisons or their designee;
      • The director or a designee of a director of an emergency or transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals who are experiencing homelessness;
      • The director or a designee of a director of a program funded under a TRIO or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for an Undergraduate program (“GEAR UP”) grant;
      • A financial aid administrator at the current institution or at another institution who previously made a determination.
      Do I need a new determination letter every year?

      No, after you provide a determination letter the first year, you will be presumed to be independent for each subsequent year you’re at the same institution unless your circumstances have changed or the institution has specific conflicting information about your independence. While schools may ask you if your homeless situation has changed, they may not maintain a practice that delays or hinders the awarding and/or disbursement of federal student aid, nor require you to submit additional documentation. 

      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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