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Working With Schools to House and Serve Homeless Students

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A student.

When it comes to helping homeless youth finish high school, research has shown that stable housing plays an important role. But helping students who are on their own find and maintain safe, appropriate housing is easier said than done.

In a number of school districts across the country, educators, youth workers, policy makers and continuums of care for people experiencing homelessness are working together to make housing a reality for unaccompanied young people. The October 2012 update to “Housing + High School = Success,” a report first released by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth in 2009, showcases the successes and illuminates the struggles of several of these partnerships.

Of course, we like to see public and private organizations joining forces to help homeless young people. And organizations that receive funding from the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs are required to work closely with their local McKinney-Vento liaisons, who are federally mandated to protect homeless youths’ educational rights.

So we were interested to see some of the ways the seven partnerships included in the NAEHCY report collaborated to build relationships among local school boards, administrators, teachers and the district’s McKinney-Vento liaison in search of more stable housing options and better learning experiences for young people. For example:

  • Youth workers at a Virginia-based program invite students and teachers to the youth’s intake meeting to help them figure out what services may be the best fit.
  • Several programs ask trusted teachers and school personnel to help youth become more comfortable living in a host home (similar to a foster home) and to keep an eye out for any problems adjusting.
  • One school district leased a home it owned near a high school to a housing program at no charge.
  • After one Washington organization closed its doors, the nearby school district began a search for funding that is expected to lead to the reopening of two youth homes.

If you’re interested in building or strengthening your own community partnerships in the interest of housing homeless students, you can find sample documents used to design and implement these programs on the NAEHCY website.

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