Answer: The education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act does not define the term “transitional housing.”  There are many different kinds of housing programs, and the labels that are used to describe them matter less than whether the conditions of the housing can legitimately be considered fixed, regular and adequate under the education definition of homelessness. 42 USC 11434a(2)(A)-(B). Whether or not a particular housing program would meet the McKinney-Vento education subtitle definition of homelessness hinges on what kind of housing actually is being provided, and the terms of the housing.

For example, some transitional housing programs have the family sign a contract, which essentially is a lease with some conditions that would be considered above and beyond a typical lease (the requirement to be gainfully employed, participate in case management, etc.). Those conditions that are beyond a typical lease agreement usually establish the housing program as transitional, meeting the McKinney-Vento definition of homeless, as opposed to fixed, regular and adequate housing.

Transitional housing programs typically last up to 2 years, while some programs last even longer.  Remember that even when a housing situation is determined to qualify as McKinney-Vento, the district still has the ability to determine that, due to the relatively stable nature of the housing situation, enrollment in the local school for the next school year is in the children’s best interest. This best interest determination must be based on specific factors related to the children’s education, and include the right to appeal if the parent disagrees.

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