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Definition of "Homeless" according to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

Subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act) defines "homeless" as follows:

The term "homeless children and youths"--

  1. means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and
  2. includes--
    1. children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
    2. children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings (within the meaning of section 103(a)(2)(C));
    3. children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
    4. migratory children (as such term is defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).

Additional Homeless Definitions

The 1995 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act Guidance provides further definitions including:

Child or Youth
For purposes of this section, “child” and “youth” mean those persons including preschool-age children who, were they children of residents of the State, would be entitled to a free, appropriate public education.

Free, Appropriate Public Education
A free, appropriate public education means the educational programs and services that are provided to the children of a resident of a State and that are consistent with State school attendance laws. States and LEAs serving homeless children and youth must ensure that such children and youth have access to appropriate educational services to ensure they have the opportunities to meet the same challenging State content and State student performance standards to which all children are held.

Educational services may include Title I, Part A of the ESEA, educational programs for individuals with disabilities and for students with limited English proficiency, programs in vocational education, programs for the gifted and talented, Head Start, Even Start, and school meals programs.

Homeless Individuals
Section 103 of the Act defines the term “homeless” or “homeless individual” as an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and who has a primary nighttime residence that is:

  • A supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
  • An institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
  • A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human being.

For purposes of this Act, the term “homeless” or “homeless individual” does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of the Congress or a State law.

In determining whether a child or youth is homeless, the relative permanence of the living arrangements should be considered. States and LEAs must make determinations on a case-by-case basis. In general, children or youth living in welfare hotels, transitional housing shelters, the streets, cars, abandoned buildings, and other inadequate accommodations are considered homeless.

Children and Youth in Transitional or Emergency Shelters
If children or youth are placed in a transitional or emergency shelter because there is nowhere else to send them, and they are awaiting placement in a foster home or a home for neglected children, they should be considered homeless while in the emergency or transitional shelter. Once placed in a foster home or a home for neglected children or youth, they should no longer be considered homeless.

Children and Youth Living in Trailer Parks and Camping Grounds
Children and youth staying temporarily in trailer parks or camping areas because they lack adequate living accommodations should be considered homeless. Those living in trailer parks or camping areas on a long-term basis in adequate accommodations should not be considered homeless.

Doubled-up Children and Youth
Children and youth who are living in “doubled-up” accommodations, that is, are sharing housing with other families or individuals, are considered homeless if they are doubled-up because of a loss of housing or other similar situation. Families living in doubled-up accommodations voluntarily to save money generally should not be considered homeless.

Foster Children and Youth
In general, children and youth in foster homes are not considered homeless. Many foster children are in the care of a public agency awaiting placement in more permanent situations. The foster home, although temporary, serves as a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Children placed in foster homes for lack of shelter space, however, should be considered homeless.

Incarcerated Children and Youth
Children and youth who are incarcerated for violation or alleged violation of a law should not be considered homeless even if prior to their incarceration they would have been considered homeless because they were living in inadequate accommodations. Children and youth who are under care of the State and are being held in an institution because they have no other place to live should be considered homeless. Once these children are placed in more permanent facilities, they are no longer considered homeless.

Migratory Children and Youth
Migratory children should not be considered homeless simply because they are children of migratory families. To the extent that migratory children are staying in accommodations not fit for habitation, they should be considered homeless.

Children or youth who have run away from home and live in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, the streets, or other inadequate accommodations are considered homeless, even if their parents have provided and are willing to provide a home for them.

School-Age Unwed Mothers
In general, if school-age unwed mothers or expectant mothers are living in homes for unwed mothers, and they have no other available living accommodations, they should be considered homeless. However, if they are staying in such a home only temporarily to receive specific health care or other services, and intend to move to other adequate accommodations, they should not be considered homeless.

Sick or Abandoned and Youth
There are instances where children and youth remain in a hospital beyond the time that they would normally stay for health reasons because they have been abandoned by their families. These children and youth should be considered homeless because they have no other place to live. Children and youth that were homeless prior to hospitalization should be considered to be homeless while they are in the hospital, unless regular and adequate living accommodations will be made available to them upon release from the hospital.

Throwaway children or youth (i.e., those whose parents or guardians will not permit them to live at home) are considered homeless if they live on the streets, in shelters, or in other transitional or inadequate accommodations.

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North Dakota Department of Public Instruction
Kirsten Baesler, State Superintendent
600 E. Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 201
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0440

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