Children and youth experiencing homelessness do not fit society’s stereotypical images of the homeless population. Homeless children and youth face several obstacles within society–receiving education in a stable environment is one of them.

The absence of a stable living arrangement has a devastating impact on educational outcomes for youth. Most homeless youth have difficulty staying at the same school for an entire school year. Stigmas about homelessness combined with lack of support from the school district can often prevent homeless students from receiving the best education possible.

Frequent mobility can increase anxiety and is associated with lower student achievement. When students change schools frequently, it is difficult for educators to identify their needs and ensure proper placement. Parents may also have difficulty identifying the difference between academic or social difficulties that result from the stresses of homelessness and mobility.

Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act’s education title, schools must eliminate the barriers that impede homeless students’ enrollment and attendance. An appointed liaison is also mandated through McKinney-Vento to work with homeless students and their families.

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What You Need To Know

  • The risk factors for homelessness overlap with the risk factors for not completing high school.
  • Early family instability and poverty pose challenges to both housing stability and educational attainment.
  • Youth who do not have a high school diploma or a GED face a greater risk of experiencing homelessness.
  • Youth who experience homelessness are less likely to attend college. Even when they do attend college, many still struggle with homelessness.
  • Opportunities for young people to advance their education and economic standing may depend on local community resources.
  • Young people experiencing homelessness need support and resources to complete their high school education and enter and complete college or career readiness programs.