Students Who Are Homeless
or In Temporary Living Situations
Students living in temporary living situations have specific education rights by federal law and are often eligible for additional support in schools. Once a student is determined eligible, that student receives services (including free lunch) for the entire school year, even if they become permanently housed. Public schools enrolled more than 1 million homeless students in the 2010-2011 school year across the country. Eligible living situations include:
- Emergency shelter or transitional housing
- Shared housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship or another, similar reason. Sometimes called “doubled up”
- Temporary foster care placement (in Michigan this means any foster care placement of less than 6 months or a foster care placement that started after March of the previous school year)
- Public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for humans, including cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, and bus or train stations
- Abandoned in a hospital
Students who qualify as “homeless” or living in a temporary living situation have the right to:
- Continue in their “school of origin” (the school they last attended when permanently housed or the school they last attended), if that is the parent or student’s choice and it is feasible, or attend the neighborhood school where the family/youth are temporarily living.
- Receive transportation to the school of origin if needed and requested.
- Immediately enroll and attend classes without providing a permanent address, past school or immunization records, proof of guardianship, etc. Homeless youth living without a parent or guardian have the right to immediate enrollment without a parent signature. Enrollment packets still must be filled out.
- Receive free lunch without documenting income.
- Receive equal access to education and support services and if eligible, participate in before– and after-school activities.
How to Realize Your Rights
- By federal law, EVERY public school district (in Michigan, this includes every charter school or public school academy) MUST have a homeless liaison designated. You can look up that person here.
- If your school district or charter school liaison does not seem to understand the law, you may want to contact the grant coordinator in your region. That contact information is available on this MDE Interactive Map.
- Call the Michigan Department of Education Homeless Education office at (517) 241-1162.
- Try calling Student Advocacy Center at (734) 482-0489.
- If all else fails, you can also call the toll-free hotline through the National Center on Homeless Education at (800) 308-2145.
Michigan Department of Education
National Center for Homeless Education
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
National Runaway Safeline or runaway youth can call 1-800-786-2929.