When housing and education support services are not aligned with each other, students are often left to navigate complex systems by themselves. School and housing providers must communicate with each other and share resources to better serve students and families. Partnerships between schools and housing providers go hand in hand—when both systems collaborate with each other, they are able to help even more students and families access the resources they need to thrive.
(Note: Abbreviations following recommendations indicate sources for those recommendations. See the Sources Key for details.)
All schools and districts have active, ongoing partnerships with their local homeless and housing systems (e.g., Coordinated Entry). Through these partnerships, schools are able to more easily refer students and families to housing resources.
Recommendations & Strategies
- School and district staff, particularly those designated as the main point of contact for students and families experiencing homelessness, should develop a partnership with the Coordinated Entry system so that housing referrals can be made more efficiently. (PE, LE)
- Strategy 1: District-level McKinney-Vento liaisons should form formal partnerships with Coordinated Entry staff to make housing and community resource referrals for eligible students and families. Formal partnerships (e.g., memoranda of understanding or agreement) should include information on McKinney-Vento points of contact. Students living in doubled-up situations are not prioritized for housing resources under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development policies and may need additional resources and support to secure stable housing. *See Doubled-up Guidance topic area for further information.
- Strategy 2: School districts should have access to the Homeless Management Information System data from their local government.
Schools partner with other community-based organizations and public agencies (e.g., affordable housing providers, public housing authorities) to broaden their network of other housing assistance programs and resources.
- Create partnerships with housing partners, including landlord liaisons and public housing authorities, that provide housing services to help McKinney-Vento eligible students access shared or independent living opportunities. (PE, MM)
School staff are equipped to provide Diversion services and have access to flexible funding for students and families experiencing homelessness.
Recommendations & Strategies
- School staff should be trained in Diversion techniques to facilitate creative conversations with students and families experiencing homelessness on possible housing solutions. Staff should also have access to flexible funding to support the immediate needs of students and families experiencing homelessness through the Diversion process. (PE, LE, MM)
- Strategy 1: Use flexible funding to address immediate needs, such as paying for utility bills or financial assistance for move-in costs (e.g., first and last month’s rent, security deposit, rental application fee, general rental assistance, or storage unit fees).
- School districts and school staff should be aware of the housing status of students and families within the restrictions set forth under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Once students and families experiencing homelessness are identified, staff can provide a list of relevant resources in their geographic area.
During the COVID-19 pandemic…
“Families said they had just expected they would be back on the street, but we used funds to serve families by fast-tracking to meet the needs that were coming through.” -Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County
School staff advocate and raise awareness for broader strategies to address homelessness at the local level.
- Have school representation on the local Continuum of Care, housing committees, and other work groups that advocate for students and families experiencing homelessness, including those living in doubled-up housing situations. (PE)
- Advocate the need for more affordable housing and address the detrimental impacts of homelessness on students and families. (PE, LE)
- Advocate for additional shelters and host homes, especially to meet the needs of unaccompanied youth and families experiencing homelessness. (PE, LE)
- Advocate for eviction prevention measures to protect students and families who have lost wages and employment and are experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. (PE)
- Strategy 1: Schools and districts should communicate with local health and housing departments to understand pandemic-related housing funds for eligible households (e.g., CARES Act funding).
- Schoolhouse Washington: Beating the Odds: How Can Schools and Districts Support Students Experiencing Homelessness?
- Schoolhouse Washington: Creativity Abounds! Diversion in Housing & Schools
- National Center for Homeless Education: When Working Together Works: Interagency Collaboration between McKinney-Vento Programs and Homeless Service Providers
- National Center for Homeless Education: Housing and Education Collaborations to Serve Homeless Children, Youth, and Families
- National Center for Homeless Education: Coordinated Entry Processes: Building Mutual Engagement between Schools and Continuums of Care
- National Alliance to End Homelessness: What is a Continuum of Care
- Washington Host Home Coalition