I am a youth…

Who wants to stay in school and continue my education. I need information about how I can continue to excel at my school with the support of my teachers, school staff, family and other service providers. It is important for my success that I understand my rights as it relates to my education and overall well-being.

  1. What is McKinney-Vento?
  2. I do not identify as homeless, but I do not have a stable place to stay. Can I still get help?
  3. Who or what is a homeless liaison? How can a homeless liaison help me?
  4. How do I ask for help? How do I contact the homeless liaison?
  5. If I ask for help, then will everyone know that I am homeless?
  6. Will the homeless liaison provide me with housing?
  7. Do I have legal rights under McKinney-Vento?
  8. If I ran away from home or if am living without my parents, will the school report me to cops if I enroll in school?
  9. What if I disagree with the schools decision regarding my enrollment, transportation, or other concerns?
  10. How do I stay in school?
  11. How do I go to college?
  12. My question is not answered here or I do not understand some of the answers?

1. What is McKinney-Vento?
McKinney Vento is the name of a law that was passed to help students who are considered homeless. If you are living with another family for financial reasons, couch surfing with friends, living in a car or on the street, in transitional housing, or in a shelter then this law can help you stay in school. If you are not sure you live in one of these places, but your living situation makes it difficult for you to stay in school and focus on learning, you can contact your school’s homeless liaison for help.

2. I do not identify as homeless, but I do not have a stable place to stay. Can I still get help?
Yes. If you do not have a permanent place to stay at night (for example, couch surfing w/ friends), it is likely that you meet the definition of homeless under McKinney-Vento. This means that a homeless liaison can help if you are living in any of the following places:

  • Shelters or transitional housing
  • With friends or family, because you or your family have no other place to go.
  • With friends or family, because you have run away, been kicked out of home, or don’t have anywhere else to go
  • In motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds because you have no other place to go.
  • In cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, public spaces, or similar places.
  • If you are awaiting foster care placement meaning that you have been initially placed in foster care and are awaiting your 30-day shelter care hearing.
  • If you are a migrant youth who is living in one of the above living situations.

Remember this is just the legal definition of what it means to be a homeless student. It does not define who you are. It is only a term used by schools to help schools identify and support students who do not have a stable place to stay.

If you are not sure if you live in one of these places, please call or contact your School District’s Homeless Liaison to see how you can get help.


The Homeless Liaison is a person who can help put you in touch with resources for housing, food, emergency services, and other important stuff like clothes and toiletries.

They can help you stay in school by:

  • Helping you immediately enroll in school
  • Helping you stay in the school you attended before you became homeless
  • Arranging for transportation to and from school
  • Signing you up for free breakfast and lunch at school
  • Helping you find emergency resources
  • Waiving lost book fines, class fees, and other activity fees
  • Helping you find a tutor if you need extra help or if you are falling behind
  • Helping you participate in school activities

Homeless Liaisons are there to help you stay in school, because they know that staying in school and getting good grades is the best way to help you be successful. Liaisons are there to help you cope with whatever situation you are in and most importantly, help you stay in school.

4. How do I ask for help? How do I contact the Homeless Liaison?
Go to whomever you trust first: caseworker, coach, teacher, school nurse, counselor, front desk assistant and ask for your District’s Homeless Liaison.

If you do not know who your school district’s Homeless Liaison is, then click here to find a list of people who are available to help you and their contact information. Be prepared to provide a reliable phone number or e-mail where you can be reached just in case you have to leave a message. You may find it helpful to use this Template-Letter-to-Liaison to contact your school/district Liaison.

If you are having a hard time finding your liaison or you want someone to help you contact your liaison, the State Coordinator can help you find someone in your school district to speak to. The State Coordinator, Melinda Dyer, can be reached at (360) 725-6050 or melinda.dyer@k12.wa.us.

5. If I ask for help? Will my friends or others know?
McKinney-Vento requires that schools reduce any challenges in their practices or policies that may keep students without a stable place to stay from attending school and participating in school activities. Homeless liaisons know that it is difficult to talk about homelessness and our aware of how important it is to keep you or your family’s information confidential. However, in order to assist you in finding services and resources, they may need to share information with school personnel and other service providers, but they must be careful to protect your identity. If you have any concerns or questions about what and how information will be shared let your liaison know. Your friends at school will never be informed that you are homeless.

6. Will the homeless liaison provide me with housing?
The homeless liaison will not provide your family with housing, but can give you phone numbers and other contact information to help you find housing.

7. Do I have legal rights under McKinney-Vento?
Yes. Under McKinney-Vento, homeless children and youth have:

  • A right to immediate enrollment;
  • The right to attend the school you attended when you or your family were permanently housed (“school of origin”) or the school where you were last attended;
  • The right to transportation to and from the school of origin;
  • The right to participate in the same activities as other students;
  • The right to participate in the same programs and other services provided to other students
  • The right to dispute a decision made by the homeless liaison or school district about what school you can or cannot attend;
  • McKinney-Vento also has a broad mandate that requires school districts to revise policies and practices that create barriers to homeless students enrollment and retention. Enrollment includes attending classes and participating fully in school activities.

8. If I ran way from home or if I’m not living with my parents will the school report me to to the cops if I enroll in school?
If you are homeless (click here to see definition of homeless) & you are not in the physical custody of your parents or guardians, you have the right to immediately enroll in school and receive other rights entitled to homeless students under McKinney-Vento. If the school district reports you to the cops or as a runaway, it would create a barrier to attending classes and fully participating in school activities, which is illegal under McKinney-Vento.

If your homeless liaison or anyone in the school district tells you that they will report you as a runaway, please immediately contact the State Coordinator, Melinda Dyer, at (360) 725-6050 or melinda.dyer@k12.wa.us. If you think you may need legal help, please call 2-1-1 or visit http://win211.org/.

9. What if I disagree with the school district’s decision regarding my enrollment, transportation, or other concerns?
If you disagree with a district’s decision regarding your school selection or enrollment let the liaison know immediately.

The liaison is required to help you through the dispute resolution process. You have the right to continue going to the school you enrolled in until the dispute is resolved. You also should be provided with all services (click here to see above) for which you are eligible. You also have the right to continue going to the school you enrolled in until the dispute is resolved.

If you need help with the dispute resolution process, please contact your school district’s homeless liaison. A link to liaisons can be found here. If you have questions or concerns about how to dispute a school’s decision or anything regarding the dispute resolution process, please immediately contact the State Coordinator, Melinda Dyer, at (360) 725-6050 or melinda.dyer@k12.wa.us.

If you think you may need legal help, please call 2-1-1 or visit http://win211.org/. You can also look at the Homeless Youth Handbook section on the Rights of homeless youth under the McKinney-Vento Act.

10. How do I stay in school?
The best way for you to stay in school is to make sure you work with your Homeless Liaison to make a plan for your transportation to and from school, to get you extra tutoring if you need it, and access to other resources and supports that you may need. We want to make sure you know that you are not alone during this difficult time—there are many adults that want to help you.

11. How do I go to college?
The first step to going to college is to stay in school. Work with your counselor at school to set goals and make sure that the classes you are taking will lead you to graduation

Most colleges and universities require you to take the ACT or the SAT to be eligible for enrollment. Testing fees may be waived to take these exams and you can get help with having your test results mailed to the colleges of your choice. Make sure to fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to determine what help you qualify for in grants and loans. Your school’s Homeless Liaison can write a letter verifying your homeless status, in order to access funding for you.

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth has a lot of information that can help you prepare for college. You can find their Higher Education page by clicking here.

You can also call their Higher Education Helpline at 1 (855) 446-2673 (toll-free) or email them at highered@naehcy.org. Another resource is College Spark. Their phone number is (206) 461-7248. Both organizations can walk you through the process.

And remember—never give up on your dreams. Your counselor and the homeless liaison are there to help you get where you need to go to make your dreams of higher education come true. You can do it!.

12. My question is not answered here or I do not understand some of the answers?
If you would like to comment, submit, or suggest additional questions that you think should appear on this page please feel free to e-mail info@waseh.org. If you have questions about McKinney-Vento or clarification about how McKinney-Vento works, the National Center for Homeless Education has a helpline that you can call at 1-800-208-2145 or email at homeless@serve.org. If you need immediate assistance with a homeless education issue it is best to contact your local liaison (click here for the liaison list), but if you cannot reach the liaison please contact the State coordinator, Melinda Dyer, at (360) 725-6050 or melinda.dyer@k12.wa.us.