Frequent Questions & Answers

Q. Do ALL school districts have the responsibility to identify or locate children and youth experiencing homelessness?

A. Yes. Every school district must designate a liaison for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires liaisons to ensure that “homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel and through coordination with other entities and agencies.” The purpose ofidentification is to offer appropriate services to the family, child or youth. Coordination with schools and community agencies is an essential identification strategy, as are professional development, awareness and training activities within school buildings, school districts, and the community.

Q. Is there a time limit on how long a child or youth can be considered homeless?

A. No, there is NO specific time limit on homelessness. Whether a child or youth meets the definition of homelessness depends upon the living situation and the individual circumstances. It is a case-specific inquiry. Due to the extremely limited incomes of most families experiencing homelessness (on average, less than half the federal poverty line) and the severe shortage of affordable housing in Union Gap and the Yakima Valley region, as well as across the country, experiences of homelessness can sometimes last an extended period of time. It is important to distinguish between questions of eligibility (i.e., does the family or youth meet the legal definition of homelessness?) and questions of school selection (i.e., is it the child or youth’s best interest to continue attending his or her school of origin?). Families or youth may be homeless for extended periods of time, during the course of which best interest factors may change, depending on specific factors related to their education and housing situation. It is important to establish eligibility first, then consider best interest in school selection. A good practice is to review students’ eligibility status and best interest factors at the beginning of each school year to see if circumstances have changed.

Q. What ages does the Homeless (McKinney-Vento) Act cover?

A. The McKinney-Vento Act applies to children and youth age 21and under, consistent with their eligibility for public education services under state and federal law. State laws vary, but generally provide access to all students until high school graduation or equivalent, or until age 21 in Washington state (varies in other states). For special education students, federal law provides the right to access services until age 22.