Addressing the unique needs of students experiencing homelessness requires a coordinated and collaborative approach through which the student, parent or caregiver, the school, social service agencies, housing services, and the public are aware and supportive of families and their children.
Administrators can help by knowing the rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness, and help the school board and local community to become more sensitive to the condition of homelessness.
Principals can help establish a true welcome to the school. Introduce the family and child to teachers, counselors, and other staff, and give a tour of the school. Set the tone for further parent involvement in the school. Train all staff to be aware of the federal law, and state and district policies.
Administrative support staff can help parents at school with enrollment by not bringing any special attention to their homeless situation. Assist parents in filling out forms. Be sensitive that some may lack skills to complete them.
Teachers can help by privately discussing what accommodations exist for doing homework with the student and make necessary arrangements or adjustments. Tutoring can also provide an opportunity for supportive counseling. Provide or arrange for needed school supplies without bringing the needs to the attention of the class.
Early childhood providers Head Start and Early Head Start can help by automatically enrolling children ages birth to 6 experiencing homelessness into their programs. Homelessness can expose families to physical, mental, and developmental risks. Head Start programs can provide needed support for these children and families.
School nurses can help contact the previous school to obtain immunization records and health records. Get verification by phone to expedite matters and share information with staff members.
Counselors, social workers, home and school visitors, and school psychologists can help by knowing the local community resources to be in a position to make referrals for the family in areas like housing, food, clothing and counseling. Make standard forms and information available about key school programs at each shelter. This includes materials on the school calendar, lunch and breakfast programs, and admission/withdrawal.
Transportation staff can help arrange for children to be able to attend the school of origin if in the student’s best interest. Set up bus stops to pick students up at the shelter first and drop them off last, to ease the embarrassment of living at the shelter.
Shelter and housing personnel can help be aware of school-based programs/activities and help parents and children to be able to participate in school functions. Shelters and housing providers may also have programs that support the education of students experiencing homelessness.
Collaboration among these stakeholders strengthen positive connections with families and form partnerships with others to develop and implement programs that will nurture and reinforce resilience in children and youth experiencing homelessness.