Experiencing Homelessness

Students Without Stable Homes Can Receive Extra Support in Schools

Federal law says that if a child is experiencing homelessness or living in a temporary living situation, they have specific educational rights and are often eligible for additional supports in schools. These services address the specific needs of your student and help set them up to stay in school and succeed. Once your student is determined eligible, they receive services (including free lunch) for the entire school year, even if they become permanently housed.

Do You Qualify for Services?

If you are a student who can answer yes to any of the following questions, you qualify as homeless by federal law and are eligible for special help from schools:

  • Are you living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing?
  • Are you sharing a house with others for economic reasons — because you lost your home or a similar reason? Sometimes this is called being “doubled up.”
  • Are you living in a motel/hotel or campground?
  • Are you living in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for humans— such as cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, and bus or train stations?
  • Have you been abandoned in a hospital?
student with red hair

Your Educational Rights

Students who qualify as homeless or living in a temporary living situation have the right to:

  • Choose to stay in the school they last attended when permanently housed, or the school they last attended (referred to as the “school of origin”), if that is the parent or student’s choice and it is feasible
  • Choose to attend the neighborhood school where the family/youth are temporarily living
  • Receive transportation to the school of origin if needed and requested
  • Enroll and attend classes immediately, 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 Get Help

  • Contact your homeless liaison. 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.
  • Contact your grant coordinator. If your school district or charter school liaison does not seem to understand the law, you may want to try the grant coordinator in your region.  That contact information is available on this Michigan Department of Education Interactive Map.
  • Call us. If you’re having trouble, please call our toll-free Students’ Rights Helpline at (855) 688-1969. You could also call the Michigan Department of Education Homeless Education office at (517) 241-1162 or the toll-free hotline through the National Center on Homeless Education at  (800) 308-2145.