Education in America is a right. All children living in America have a right to free public school education. Whether they naturally speak English, are gay, or even disabled, they have a right to be educated by the American Public school system. So what about people who happen to be homeless? You may not know this, but even without documentation, a child living in America has the right to obtain an education.
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, students under the age of 18 are allowed to enroll in school without some or all necessary documentation. For youth, a school liaison or social services provider should be there to assists and advocate for students facing homelessness. A youth student being homeless will pose a higher risk of dropping out verses their stable counterpart. However, if they do succeed past high school and continue to college, their housing situation will likely not change. This can be for many reasons. But, the fact of the matter remains the same.
As for adults, there are more than one million adult students in America that identify as homeless (1). Educational goals of homeless community members are often set aside or entirely forgotten due to instability and lack of academic resources. How can we change that? By encouraging and empowering homeless community members to seek higher education. FAFSA is the Federal Student Aid site where any adult can apply for federal grants for school. The application is simple and can be completed in less than 30 minutes. The money awarded can be used for tuition and housing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover food and other basic living essentials. Some colleges offer resources for homeless students like food vouchers or pantries. But, more must be done. If we want to eliminate homelessness, we must actively contribute to its alleviation.
Here’s how you can help a homeless student succeed.
Assist them in enrolling and registering for college by helping them prepare the necessary documentation, obtain recommendation letters, and complete all requirements for entrance.
Help them focus on their studies. Food insecurities, lack of basic living essentials, and instability are a significant distraction and has proven detrimental for students from any background.
Take the course, Supporting College Transition for Homeless Youth. Here you’ll learn how to support the higher education of our homeless community members.
Lastly, we must treat others as we’d like to be treated. Having an opportunity to achieve our life’s goals is something we all want. Homelessness doesn’t change that. Let’s help others so that they may help others.