The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was originally authorized in 1987 and recently reauthorized in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This federal law includes the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program that entitles children who are homeless to a free, appropriate public education and requires schools to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in school.
The McKinney-Vento Act protects all students who do not have a fixed, regular and adequate residence, such as students living in the following situations:
1. Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to the loss of housing, are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters, or are abandoned in hospitals;
2. Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
3. Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or a similar setting; and
4. Migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of meeting the above criteria.
Children and youth experiencing homelessness have the right to:
1. Receive a free, appropriate public education;
2. Enroll in school immediately even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment;
3. Enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents;
4. Continue attending the school of origin (last school attended before becoming homeless) or enroll in the local attendance area school if attending the school of origin is not in the best interest of the student or is not feasible;
5. Receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if requested by the parent or guardian, or by the local liaison on behalf of an unaccompanied youth;
6. Receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students.
For more information on parent/youth rights, please visit:
Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
The McKinney-Vento Act defines unaccompanied youth as ”a homeless child or youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian” [42 USC § 11434a(6)]. Two conditions must be met for the child/youth to be considered unaccompanied:
1. The child’s/youth’s circumstances must meet the definition of homeless, and
2. The child/youth is not physically living with a parent or guardian.
The issue of custody or guardianship alone would not make a student eligible for McKinney-Vento services. For information on unaccompanied homeless youth rights, please visit: