Other Youth Topics


Safe and stable housing, along with education and the underlying factors that promote educational attainment play a key role in the support and development of young people. In the 2021–22 school year, 1,205,292 students in public schools experienced homelessness as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. The percentage of students who were homeless remained relatively steady at 2.2 percent of enrolled students in the 2020–21 school year and 2.4 percent of enrolled students in the 2021–22 school year.1 Experiences of homelessness among students are not homogeneous. Some students may be part of a family that has lost their home because of a lack of income, recent trauma, or unexpected tragedy. Other youth may be “unaccompanied” (i.e., on their own with no adult supports).

Two thirds of formerly homeless youth surveyed said that homelessness had a significant impact on their education, making it hard to stay and do well.2 Multiple studies have found that youth experiencing homelessness face academic and social challenges at school, including chronic absenteeism,3 lower grade point averages,4 low graduation rates,5 school connectedness, as well as higher rates of school victimization (bullying), depression tendency, and suicidal ideation.6 In addition, youth with less than a high school diploma or GED had a 346 percent higher risk of experiencing homelessness than peers who completed high school, making it the greatest risk factor for experiencing homelessness as a young adult.7

Young people experiencing homelessness face many barriers to education, including

  • the inability to meet enrollment requirements (including requirements to provide proof of residency and legal guardianship and school and health records);
  • high mobility resulting in lack of school stability and educational continuity;
  • lack of transportation;
  • lack of school supplies and clothing;
  • lack of awareness and support from school staff; and
  • poor health, fatigue, and hunger.8

When these barriers are not addressed, children and youth experiencing homelessness often are unable to attend—or even enroll in—school, which prevents them from obtaining an education and creating further challenges as they transition to adulthood. Schools have been mandated with addressing these barriers by raising awareness about the challenges that youth experiencing homelessness face, implementing policies to limit barriers to enrollment and transportation issues, providing in-school and related services to support youth experiencing homelessness, conducting outreach to identify youth impacted by homelessness who may not be attending schools, and involving a coordinator who can help oversee youth affected by homelessness at the local or state level. Also, research points to the importance of addressing enrollment barriers, supporting college and career success, working toward collaboration and coordination between service providers, assigning school liaisons to support on-site, and focusing on social and emotional learning to promote positive school outcomes for students experiencing homelessness.9

Schools and school-based prevention programs for youth experiencing homelessness have the potential to provide prosocial environments in which youth can develop positive social bonds. Federal programs such as the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (PDF, 4 pages), authorized under the McKinney-Vento Act, requires that public school districts appoint a liaison to help address educational barriers and challenges created by homelessness by guaranteeing students experiencing homelessness the right to enroll in and attend school, as well as receive supports needed for school success. In addition, the Transitional Living Program provides educational support services to help youth receive a GED, access postsecondary education, and develop vocational skills.


Chapin Hall: Youth Homelessness and Education
This report discusses findings from a study that looked at youth experiencing homelessness from 22 counties across the United States, including how experiencing homelessness can detrimentally affect education, including barriers and recommendations.

Adolescent Well-Being after Experiencing Family Homelessness
New analysis of data from the Family Options Study (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Urban Development) of interventions for families experiencing homelessness examines adolescents’ experiences in shelter with their families and 20 months later. The analysis shows that most adolescents continued to live with their families, and some continued to experience housing instability or live in overcrowded situations. These adolescents were more likely to have changed schools or been absent from schools compared with their peers nationally, and school mobility was associated with persistent homelessness or doubling up. Young people who changed schools frequently had slightly lower grades, less motivation, and slightly more problem behaviors than those who did not. Twenty months after a shelter stay with their families, adolescents exhibited more problem behaviors generally than their peers nationally.

Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program
Formula grants are provided to the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico based on each state’s share of Title I, Part A funds. Outlying areas and the Bureau of Indian Affairs also receive funds. These funds are provided so that local education agencies and state education agencies can implement the requirements mandated in the McKinney Vento Act. For example, this includes funds for an office to coordinate the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in each state; assistance to state education agencies to ensure that children experiencing homelessness, including preschoolers, have equal access to free and appropriate public education; and mandates that states review and revise laws and practices that impede such equal access.

National Center for Homeless Education at SERVE (NCHE)
NCHE is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance and information center in the area of homeless education. Its website provides a range of resources and support concerning homelessness, including websites, reports, briefs, training resources, videos, curriculum materials, specific resources for school districts and schools, and more. For assistance with homeless education issues, contact the NCHE helpline at 1-800-308-2145 (toll-free) or homeless@serve.org.


Other Resources on this Topic


Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).

Latest Resources