Nicole & Bert: Read the Story

Bert has been raising his daughter, Nicole, on his own since she was three years old. Her mother is in jail because she abused Nicole. The engineering plant where Bert worked closed down. After he lost his job, the unpaid bills began to mount one on top of the other. Bert lost his electricity, water, and then the gas. Shortly after, he also lost the house.

To survive after losing his job, Bert sold everything he owned except his working tools and his SUV. They were both paid off. He knew he needed the tools for work and the SUV to help with job hunting and in a worst case, he and Nicole could sleep in it.

Bert is a trained carpenter and building maintenance engineer with twenty years of experience, but he still has been unsuccessful in finding a job. After one month of sleeping in his car trying to conserve the few dollars he had, he decided that he and Nicole should relocate to another state with the hope that he would be able to find a job.

When Bert got to his new location, he had three goals: find a job, find a preschool program for Nicole, and find a place to live. With the little money he was able to set aside after selling everything, he rented a one-room apartment on the bad side of town. Bert visited the Finch Head Start program and is very close to selecting a preschool program for Nicole.

Unfortunately, he still has not found a job and his money is dwindling quickly.

Read the McKinney-Vento Definition of Homelessness

According to section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a(2)), the term “homeless children and youths”—

(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence...; 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 accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;

(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;

(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 who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).

Children and youth are considered homeless if they fit both part A and any one of the subparts of part B of the definition above.

Nicole & Bert: Explore Information

Before you start the activity, do the following:

  • Consider Nicole’s circumstances.
  • Review the information in the links below.
  • If possible, discuss Nicole’s situation with a colleague.

Nicole & Bert: Do the Activity

Are Nicole and Bert living in a homeless situation?

Choose your answer and read the feedback. Get a hint.

Consider these questions:

  • Have you looked at the definition of homelessness?
  • Do Nicole and Bert have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence?
  • Have you listened to the collaboration directors talk about homelessness?

Answers:

  1. Yes, because they were living in a car and may need to do that again if Bert runs out of money.

    Not correct. When Nicole and her father were living in a car, they were considered homeless based on the McKinney-Vento Act. At this time, it is uncertain whether they will run out of money and need to return to living in a car. Think about these questions, review the information in the Explore Information tab, and then try again:

    • Do Nicole and Bert have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence?
    • Do Nicole and her father have a temporary or permanent living arrangement?
    • Do Nicole and her father have their own residence?
    • Is Nicole and Bert’s residence adequate?
  2. Yes, because Nicole and Bert live on a bad side of town so the residence is not adequate.

    Not correct. Living on a bad side of town may indicate an inadequate residence, but it is not clear from the information given whether that is the case for Bert and Nicole. Think about these questions, review the information in the Explore Information tab, and then try again:

    • Do Nicole and Bert have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence?
    • Do Nicole and her father have a temporary or permanent living arrangement?
    • Do Nicole and her father have their own residence?
    • Is Nicole and Bert’s residence adequate?
  3. No, because Nicole and her father live together.

    Not correct. Based on the McKinney-Vento Act, the fact that Nicole and her father live together does not define whether or not they are homeless. Think about these questions, review the information in the Explore Information tab, and then try again:

    • Do Nicole and Bert have a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence?
    • Do Nicole and her father have a temporary or permanent living arrangement?
    • Do Nicole and her father have their own residence?
    • Is Nicole and Bert’s residence adequate?
  4. No, because even though Nicole and Bert were living in a car for a while, they now are living in an apartment, which is a fixed residence.

    Correct! Nicole and Bert are not homeless because even though they were living in a car for a while, they are now living in an apartment, which is a fixed, regular, and adequate residence.

    Whether or not Nicole and her father are considered homeless is based on whether they fit the definition according to the McKinney-Vento Act. The reason they are not homeless is that they have a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

    Although the apartment is on the bad side of town, there is nothing in the story to indicate that it is substandard housing or inadequate, which would be a criterion for being considered homeless.

    Even though Nicole and Bert are not living in a homeless situation, it should be noted that while looking for assistance, Bert discovered that there is much more assistance available for mothers experiencing homelessness with children than fathers experiencing homelessness with children.

    For more information about homelessness, look on the ECLKC in Crisis Support under Family and Community Partnerships.

IMPORTANT! As you consider this scenario and how it might compare to families you encounter in your work, remember that each family’s life situation is uniquely different.

Nicole & Bert: Try a New Story

Last Reviewed: July 2014

Last Updated: July 9, 2014