Exceptional Children » Homeless Family Services / McKinney-Vento Act

Homeless Family Services / McKinney-Vento Act

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act


Swain County Schools are committed to preparing every student to pursue a career and lead a balanced life by focusing on success for every child, the health and wellness of students, high expectations, and providing safety through careful planning and reflection. 


The faculty and staff of Swain County Schools understand students have different life experiences and need different levels of support at school.  Some of our students may experience homelessness as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.  Swain County Schools are committed to meet the needs of all students, but when students are experiencing homelessness, the uncertainty of their situation may merit additional services, resources, and interventions. 


The McKinney-Vento Definition of Homeless

Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (per Title IX, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act) defines homeless as follows:


The term "homeless children and youths"--

(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (within the meaning of section 103(a)(1)); and

(B) includes--

(i) 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; or are abandoned in hospitals;*

(ii) 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));

(iii) children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and

(iv) 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).

*Per Title IX, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act, "awaiting foster care placement" was removed from the definition of homeless on December 10, 2016; the only exception to his removal is that "covered states" have until December 10, 2017, to remove "awaiting foster care placement" from their definition of homeless.



To be eligible for services, the student must meet the Act’s definition of homeless. The McKinney-Vento Act defines “homeless children and youths” as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” Lacking any one of these three conditions would make a child eligible. In other words, if the residence is not fixed, regular, and adequate, it is considered a homeless situation. The list of examples included in the Act in the definition is not exclusive.


Eligible students have the right to:

  • Receive a free, appropriate public education.
  • Enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment.
  • Enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents.
  • Enroll in the local school; or continue attending their school of origin (the school they attended when permanently housed or the school in which they were last enrolled), if that is their preference. * If the school district believes that the school selected is not in his/her best interest, then the district must provide the student with a written explanation of its position and inform the student of his/her right to appeal its decision.
  • Receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if requested.
  • Receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students, according to the students’ needs.


Unaccompanied Youth Status

Unaccompanied youth include young people who have run away from home, been thrown out of their homes, and/or been abandoned by parents or guardians. These young people are separated from their parents for a variety of reasons.

Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Unaccompanied Youth have the right to:

  • Remain in their school of origin (to the extent feasible)
  • Transportation to and from the school of origin
  • Immediately enroll in a new school serving the area in which they are currently living even if they don’t have typically required documents (e.g., proof of guardianship)
  • Equal access to programs and services such as gifted and talented education, special education, vocational education, and English as a Second Language.
These rights are established under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This act is the primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in U.S. public schools. It was reauthorized in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To qualify for these rights, children, and youth must be considered homeless according to the McKinney-Vento definition of homeless.
Swain County Public Schools Homeless Data
2019-2020: 36
2018-2019: 49
2017-2018: 20
For more information contact:
Dr. Brandon Sutton, McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison
(828) 488-3129 EXT. 5129
Or, contact your child's school social worker, guidance counselor, nurse, or principal. 
North Carolina McKinney-Vento Liaison:
Lisa Phillips
(336) 315-7491