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National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families


Understanding the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 2001

Originally authorized as the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act in 1987, this law was most recently reauthorized as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The McKinney-Vento Act:

  • Defines homeless children and youth as individuals without a fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence. This definition includes, among others, young people living in emergency or transitional shelters, cars, parks, public spaces, bus or train stations, or abandoned buildings, and youth awaiting foster care placement.

  • Establishes the right of children and youth experiencing homelessness to access the same public education provided to other children, to continue in the school they attended before they became homeless and to receive transportation to that school, and to enroll in school without delay. Schools cannot require proof of residency that might prevent or delay enrollment, and students have the right to attend classes while the school arranges for transfer of records required for enrollment.

  • Mandates the presence of a liaison for homeless children and youth in each school district across the Nation. The liaison advocates on behalf of homeless youth and their families and works with local service providers to ensure youth have access to school and to social services.

  • Requires every State to have a Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth responsible for ensuring the understanding of and compliance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in public schools throughout the State.

  • Prohibits school districts from segregating students experiencing homelessness in shelter classrooms, separate schools, or separate programs within a school. No public funds can support separate education for homeless students, for any period of time. However, supplemental services such as afterschool tutoring or mentoring can be provided at a shelter, using McKinney-Vento, Title I, Part A, or other public funds.

  • Is supported by the Runaway, Homeless and Missing Children Protection Act of 2003, which reauthorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Youth-serving agencies that receive Basic Center and Transitional Living Program funding from the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) must work closely with school district homeless liaisons to ensure that runaway and homeless youth understand the educational services available to them.

Resources on the McKinney-Vento Act

Family and Youth Services Bureau, Information Memorandum on RHY program coordination with the McKinney-Vento School Act:

U.S. Department of Education:

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth:

National Center for Homeless Education:

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty: