Helping Homeless Students
In the recent times, educational and schooling institutions have experienced unprecedented enrollment of students. The urge and need to acquire basic education has led to influx and has over stretched housing facilities. As such many students have been left homeless, the most recent data estimates that there are more than 1.2 million homeless students enrolled in schools in the country (Dyer and Green, 2015). Students need ample and good environment to enable them focus on their education and enjoy life as their counterparts. The disparity in housing facilities has led the government to come up with legislations aiming at reducing the rate of homelessness especially among the youth which includes the students. Two key legislations are the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act under Section 725(2) outlines that a homeless child is one who lacks regular, fixed and overnight residence. This includes children and youths sharing a house due to economic challenges, youth who sleep in hotels, camps as a result of lack alternative accommodation, those living in transitional shelters and students spending the night in public spaces, parks, benches and even in vehicles (Department of Education, 2016).
Moreover, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act Title, Part A creates a fund kitty that supports the homeless students. The funds has been channeled to immunization, school supplies such as backpacks and writing pads, hearing aids, birth certificate processing, tutoring in shelters, outreach activities in motels and shelters, food, clothing and fees (National Center for Homeless Education, 2014).
This paper will discuss the state of the homeless students and aiding legislations, measures that have been put in place to remedy the situation, instructors or teachers impact in an attempt to help these students and stakeholders’ contributions (state, local activities and schools initiatives).
Having defined the categories of a homeless persons and for the purpose of our discussion include students, the government has state and local agencies coordination and working to alleviate the challenges. The McKinney Vento Act addresses these challenges by creating two agencies: first, the State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and the Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) (Department of Education, 2016). The State Educational Agencies ensures that homeless students have equal access to proper public education and facilities that ensure that they reap the benefit of a functional education set up compared to other students (Department of Education, 2016). On the other hand, the Local Educational Agencies have a mandate to review legislations, practices and policies that may curtail enrollment, attendance and success in school of the homeless students (Department of Education, 2016).
The main focus of the McKinney Vento Act is on identifying homeless students, ensuring that the identified students access services, coordinating with welfare providers, aiding the state and local levels, ensuring there is stability in schools and removing enrollments obstacles among others. Under the Act, there are institutional bodies that work to achieve the goals of the Act, these include; National Center for Homeless Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Department of Education who act in liaison with LEA and SEA (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2015).
The State activities are majorly achieve through funding and grants from the governments and other bodies. The McKinney-Vento allocation allocations are mainly used to fund State activities not exceeding 25% if its allocation and the sub grants receive are channeled to the LEAs (Department of Education, 2016). The plans are executed through the State Coordinators use functions include gathering public information on homeless children, overseeing state’s McKinney-Vento plan, working with service providers and educators and providing technical assistance to LEAs. These activities ensures that there are systems, policies and procedures that work to achieve the objects of the Act and in the end help the homeless students (National Center for Homeless Education, 2014).
The State coordinators provide technical assistance by ensuring the McKinney-Vento procedures are followed, identifying homeless students, finding resources, putting measures that improve academic progress, monitoring attendance, enrollment and dropouts, and arranging for means of transportation (Department of Education, 2016). Having collected and sorted all the information on the homeless students, the State coordinators have an obligation to post the correct data in the SEA websites under Section 722(f) (1) (A)) of the McKinney-Vento Act. Lastly, the State coordinators monitor the LEAs to ensure that they implement the plans under the Act; this is done through documentary reviews, contracting and interviews (Department of Education, 2016).
The local liaison is an integral part of the McKinney-Vento Act; a primary link is created between homeless students, educators and other service providers. The activities of the LEA are achieved through local coordinators (Department of Education, 2016). The local coordinators ensure that the homeless youth and the children enroll to schools. This is achieved through outreach programs that identify the homeless and subsequent enrollment to schools. The local liaison ha a mandate of notifying the public any available plans under the McKinney-Vento whether funded under the sub grant or not. Once the homeless students have been enrolled, the coordinators ensure that that they access and receive health benefits such as referral, mental and other services (Department of Education, 2016).
Under Sections 721(3), 722(e) (3) of the McKinney-Vento Act prohibits segregation of students at public school however the main challenge is on how to fully achieve zero segregation. The District and local coordinator have programs that help in integration of the homeless students and non-homeless (Department of Education, 2016). The main activities employed to foster closeness is though initiatives promoting sheltering, join and discovery clubs which is a platform for the students to interact and being livid of others situations.
Moreover, any person can help making or supporting recommendations of the LEA as they attempt to lobby for funds from the SEA (Department of Education, 2016). This can be achieved by demonstrating that the LEA has in the past used responsibly and appropriately the grants given. Owing to the competitiveness nature of the proposal to the SEA, there should be evidence of homeless student surging needs which requires the attention. If granted the LEA should endeavor to offer various educational services to the homeless students, continuous evaluation of the strengths and weakness of the homeless students, offer an opportunity for professional development, ensuring that the homeless students access proper and standardized health care, concentrating on childhood pre-school, retention and keeping track of the enrolled students (Department of Education, 2016). LEA has helped the homeless students by providing out of school facilities, school supplies, and distributed other support facilities to the temporary shelters and housings.
LEAs have a responsibility to ensure that they eradicate all obstacles that may hinder enrollment and retention of the homeless students. After dealing with factors that are considered to be of the best interest to the homeless student (such as mobility, origin, health, guardian or parent interests), they have an obligation to missing records of the students (Department of Education, 2016). Where a homeless student cannot produce previous academic papers, birth certificates, health records or proof of guardianship, the educators should not deny the student from registering. In addition, they should take a step further and help in tracking the missing documents and even recommend for immunization (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2015).
The SEAs and LEAs have a responsibility in ensuring that the homeless students’ access transports services. The McKinney-Vento Act in Section 722(g) (4) (A) provides for comparable transportation incentives between the homeless and the non-homeless students (Department of Education, 2016). LEA have a responsibility in helping the homeless students access transport and make arrangements with their guardians in cases where they relocate to neighboring areas. Moreover, the LEAs from two different regions have an obligation to apportion the transport costs (National Center for Homeless Education, 2014).
Furthermore, in cases where policies between two LEAs contradict and the agencies fail to agree, SEA can help he parties resolve any disputes. The LEA has an obligation to resolve disputes arising or affecting the stability of homeless students caused by enrollment challenges, ineligibility or school selections.
Homeless students access to higher education
It is almost certain that many students aspire to purse higher learning and getting university and college diplomas. Homeless students have the same wishes, however, and due to lack of funding such students might have their dreams cut short (Mizerek and Hinz, 2004). In a bid to assist homeless students the National Center for Homeless Education has offered funds for the high school and college homeless students (Engram et al., 2016). The financial aid has been carefully administered through fair eligibility criteria and taking into considering the best interests of the homeless student (Engram et al., 2016). Furthermore, the Association has offered various higher education resources to help homeless students seeking higher education. Examples of these resources include: briefs to assist unaided students access college financial aid Higher Education Helplines, providing toolkits to educators and assisting service providers who help homeless students succeed in higher institutions (Engram et al., 2016).
The Seattle Education Access (SEA) is an example of programs that has helped the homeless youth to enroll in higher institutions of education (Engram et al., 2016). The SEA is open to individuals under 30 years regardless of their guardianship and legal issues. The program is twofold; first, the College Prep Program which helps homeless student prepares for higher learning and education and second the College Success Program that ensures retention into the program of the homeless students (Engram et al., 2016). The SEA award scholarships, bus passes textbooks and financial aids to the students under the program.
The role of Educators and teachers in helping the homeless students
As discussed throughout the paper, homeless students face numerous challenges which extend after enrollment to academic institutions. The school is an integral part as it provides stability for the homeless students. As such, the teachers have a responsibility of acquainting themselves with the McKinney-Vento Act and other legislations (Wakefield, 2014).
Generally, people have unfounded assumptions regarding the homeless students which include the non-homeless students. Teachers have an obligation to dispel the assumptions and predetermined thoughts and create friendly learning environment for the homeless students (Wakefield, 2014). The teachers can employ the following strategies to help homeless students in schools. First, the teachers should put measures to stabilize the needs for homeless student (Evers, 2011). The basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, good hygiene, arrange for transportation and medical care. The teachers should take discourage students from bringing snacks. Secondly, the teacher should endeavor to monitor the academic performance of homeless student by administering basic tests such as math, writing and reading (Evers, 2011).
Third, the teacher should create environments that foster new relationships between homeless and non-homeless students (Evers, 2011). This can be achieved by encouraging students to make new friends, sharing textbooks and having lunch with the homeless students. These activities would build new experiences and boost self-esteem of the homeless students. Fourth, teachers should understand the exceptional circumstances and challenges faced by homeless students who may at times sleep during sessions (Evers, 2011). In such cases the teacher should allow the student to sleep because most of them rarely get adequate sleep. Where a homeless student is arrives late the teacher is obligated to inquire and avoid penalizing because these students might even lack means of transportation.
Teachers must make an attempt to know the living conditions or shelters of the homeless students. When giving assignments such as TV programs, the tutor must bear in mind whether the student place of shelter can allow channel changes (Evers, 2011). Educators should understand the situations of the homeless students by classifying their needs into three levels: technical, academic and affective (Wakefield, 2014). Under academics, the teacher should concentrate on the literacy levels in an attempt to build their lives (Wakefield, 2014). Studies have shown that homeless students perform poorly in math and reading as compared to their counterparts averaging a 16% score students (Dyer and Green, 2015). The rate of school dropouts is even higher on the homeless students (Dyer and Green, 2015).
Affective needs touches on homeless student’s arrival, the teacher should welcome the student and introduce him/her to the class and if the student leaves the teacher should make the ending more memorable, for instance, writing a goodbye note (Wakefield, 2014). The technical bit has been discussed in the paper and it mainly deal with provision of basic necessities such as food, clothing and school necessities among others (Wakefield, 2014).
Allowing homeless students access to libraries
Initiatives that allow homeless student’s access to Public and school library have led to increase in literacy levels among the homeless students (Wakefield, 2014). Librarians provide the necessary tools and technologies that help homeless students complete their assignments (Wakefield, 2014). The American Library Association (ALA) has put in place measures that are in tandem with the McKinney-Vento Act. The ALA is required to take into considerations the unique circumstances of homeless students. It is critical that the librarians provide equal and uninterrupted access to the homeless students in school and public libraries (Wakefield, 2014). Many libraries have trained their staff to pay attention to these categories of readers and most importantly, the ALA has put measures to remove barriers in the library systems. Examples of the barriers include charges on lost books, fine imposed due to lateness and simple procedures in books borrowing (Wakefield, 2014).
There are public libraries that have acted positively and created programs that allow homeless student to access their facilities (Wakefield, 2014). The New York Queens Library works in collaboration with Department of Education liaison in shelters. In the forum, the coordinator talks to parents and guardians on programs that can help their children access their facilities (Wakefield, 2014). The library has created book clubs and children reading sessions. On the other hand, school libraries have coordinated with the district liaisons who have advised on the state of homeless students who at times fail to return books because of transitional shelters and others moving out completely (Wakefield, 2014).
The McKinney-Vento Act has positively impacted on the current state of homeless students in a number of ways. First, the Act has ensured that there is continued protection of homeless students’ rights to stay and be enrolled in schools. Retention of homeless students in these institutions creates stability and leads to consistency in their education. The McKinney-Vento Act has allowed smooth transition to public schools in cases where homeless student transfer to other states.
The LEAs and SEAs are institutional structures established to aid and improve the lives of homeless students; as such these bodies should coordinate and collaborate in discharging their functions. The LEA should put measures that allow homeless students opportunity to attend college education; any barriers such as lack of financial aid should be handled beforehand. Moreover, SEA should allow appeals from the LEA and provide the best form of punishment that takes into consideration the beast interest of the homeless student.
The paper has shown the important role played by educators and by understanding the laws and regulations governing homelessness their perception automatically changes. The educators have an obligation of providing a friendly and stable atmosphere where homeless students feel safe (Mizerek and Hinz, 2004). Moreover, an effective teacher should endeavor to create a long lasting relationship between the educator and homeless students and non-homeless and homeless students. In fact, the classroom should be one of the top favorite spaces of a homeless student.
With regard to access to libraries, the paper has highlighted the benefits that homeless students reap from public and school libraries. In addition, by allowing the students to carry books to their shelters, it has improved their literacy skills and by extension to their families. Minimal application of fines and penalties have also encouraged homeless student to return books even if the deadline has lapses (Wakefield, 2014). The ALA should coordinate with librarians and increase facilities especially in states that have a high number of homeless students (Wakefield, 2014).
In a summary, the urge to help homeless student has legislative backing. The homeless students are entitled to education right from enrollment to college education. The persons and bodies tasked with overseeing programs that ensure that the students’ access education and shelter have an obligation under the law (Mizerek and Hinz, 2004). Educators, teachers, liaisons and coordinators have a responsibility of ensuring that homeless student access basic needs, emotional support, monitor school performance of homeless student and school intervention methods which include fostering relationships.
Department of Education. (2016). Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program Non-Regulatory Guidance Title VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/160240ehcyguidance072716.pdf
Dyer, M and Green, J. (2015). Homeless Students Data.http://www.k12.wa.us/LegisGov/2015documents/HomelessStudentsJan2015.pdf
Engram, E.R, Brigdeland, J.M, Reed, B and Atwell, M. (2016). Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools. Pg 9-64 http://civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/HiddeninPlainSightOfficial.pdf
Evers, T. (2011). How Teachers Can Help Students Who Are Homeless. Page 1-5. Retrieved fromhttps://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/homeless/pdf/teach_help_hmls_stud.pdf
Mizerek, E.A, and Hinz, E.E. (2004).Helping Homeless Students. Counseling 101. Page 1-4 Downloads/Homeless%20Students%20NASSP%20May%2004.pdf
National Center for Homeless Education. (2014). Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness under Title I, Part A. Page 5-7 Retrieved fromhttp://nche.ed.gov/downloads/briefs/titlei.pdf
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2015).Summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Legislation Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Page 5-13.http://www.ncsl.org/documents/educ/ESSA_summary_NCSL.pdf
Wakefield, A.R. (2014).The Educator’s Role in Instructing Homeless Students. Page 18-34.Retrived from http://centralspace.ucmo.edu/bitstream/handle/123456789/361/Wakefield_LIBRARY.pdf?sequence=1
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