Who's Working to Help Homeless Kids Stay in School?

According to a report released last November by the National Center on Family Homelessness at the American Institutes for Research, the number of homeless youth in 2013 set a record at 2.5 million, a population bigger than that of 15 states.

One of the biggest challenges for homeless kids is ensuring continuity in their education. Being able to stay in school is key, whether the kids are sleeping in cars, shelters, or on the streets. For many, school is the only stable aspect of their lives remaining. Yet staying in school is easier said than done: Too many school administrators deny admission to students who lack permanent addresses, despite the fact that such a refusal is illegal. Recently, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation committed to helping these kids fight for their rights with a $75,000 grant through the end of March 2016 to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C.

This is just the kind of grant you'd expect from the Kellogg, a foundation that sticks up for some of the most marginalized and forgotten people in the nation. 

In 1989, attorney Maria Foscarinis, founded the law center with one purpose only: to end homelessness in the United States. The center’s aspirational goals include increasing access to affordable housing and reinforcing the social safety net. The attorneys at the center actively advocate for the homeless, educate the public about the issue, and litigate. Some of their victories include forestalling homelessness for renters and overturning laws that criminalize being homeless.

One of the biggest tools that the center uses is a law that Foscarinis helped craft called the McKinney-Vento Act, which protects the rights of homeless children. It defines them as "individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." It requires schools to enroll homeless youth immediately, even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residency. Homeless children are allowed to remain at the schools that they were attending even if they are they’re temporarily staying in a different district. They are entitled to free transportation to and from school and free school meals. They are entitled to participate in the full range of school activities.

Through Project LEARN, and its pro bono partner DLA Piper, the center has trained attorneys from 20 offices across the United States to also fight for the rights of the homeless.

The Kellogg Foundation, meanwhile, is a big supporter of childhood education through its Educated Kids program which tries “to ensure that all children, especially those most vulnerable, start school from the very beginning on a path to success.”