mother and child

Students & Families in Transition
(Homeless Education)

Why are school districts obligated to serve homeless children and youth?

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the primary federal legislation addressing the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in U.S. public schools. It was reauthorized as Title IX of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in July 2016. Under the McKinney-Vento Act all Local Education Agencies (LEA) must provide specific services to a homeless youth.

Students & Families in Transition Information

Definition of Homeless:

According to the federal law, McKinney-Vento Act, children and youth are considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, adequate night-time residence: 

  • Any student who is sharing the housing with others due to economic hardship, job loss, eviction/foreclosure or any similar circumstances (doubled up)
  • Any student who is living in cars, trailer parks, campgrounds, public spaces, abandoned buildings or substandard housing
  • Any student who is living in hotels or motels
  • Any student who is living in an emergency or transitional shelter, a student who has been abandoned in a hospital
  • Any student who is an unaccompanied youth (not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian) in any of the above mentioned circumstances
  • Migratory children who are living in any of the above mentioned circumstances

Children and youth rights and services

Every child has a right to a free and appropriate public education and required to attend school regularly. Children and youth who fit the federal definition of homelessness under the McKinney-Vento Act have the right to:

  • Immediate school enrollment and attendance, even without birth records, school records, immunizations, and/or health physicals
  • Remain at their school of origin or enroll in their neighborhood school for the duration of the academic school year
  • Transportation to and from school, if feasible
  • Receive free breakfast and lunch during the academic school year

Who can help a homeless student upon identification?

Cynthia Knowles
Coordinator of Students and Families in Transition
Phone: (352) 797-7070 ext. 132

Vanessa Torres
Students and Families in Transition Specialist
Phone: (352) 797-7070 ext. 201

Pamela Barron
Students and Families in Transition Specialist
Phone: (352) 797-7070 ext. 291

Debbie Kelly 
Students and Families in Transition Unaccompanied Youth Specialist 
Phone: 352-797-7070 x 203

The Students & Families in Transition Team, including a homeless liaison are available to offer help and services to students, families and schools.

What other support services are available?

In addition to services required under the McKinney-Vento Act, homeless children and youth may be able to receive services through the SFIT Team:

  • Free school supplies and backpacks
  • Assistance with school uniforms and/or school attire
  • Toiletries/hygiene products
  • Referrals to community services and outreach programs

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students experiencing homelessness have these rights:

School Selection
Students experiencing homelessness have two school enrollment options-the school of origin or the zoned school in their new location. The school of origin is the school that the student last attended before losing housing. Students who are in homeless situations must remain in their school of origin unless it is against the wishes of the parents or guardians, and only if it is in the best interest of the student. Students may remain in their school of origin the entire time they are experiencing homelessness and until the end of the academic year in which they move into permanent housing.

School districts must immediately enroll students who are in homeless situations, even if they do not have required documents, including school records, medical records and proof of residency. For assistance with obtaining such documentation, please contact the Students & Families in Transition team at (352) 797-7070 ext. 132.

At a parent or guardian’s request, students who are experiencing homelessness must be provided with transportation to and from their school of origin, to the extent feasible. Feasibility is determined by considering the best interest of the student.

Free Meals
Students who are experiencing homelessness automatically qualify for free meals. Immediate eligibility is granted-no formal application is necessary.

Dispute Resolution
Whenever a dispute arises, the student must be admitted immediately to the requested school (school of origin OR zoned school) while the dispute is being resolved. When a determination has been made, the LEA must provide the parent or guardian with a written explanation of its school placement decision and the right to appeal.