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
(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.
Excerpt from The Office of Head Start Policy Clarification (OHS–PC– I–086) states:
"...In determining whether a child is living in "substandard housing," Head Start staff must evaluate whether the child's housing situation falls short of community standards or is of lower quality than the law prescribes. Staff should consider factors such as whether there are health and safety concerns related to the housing; the number of occupants per square foot; the age(s) of the occupants; and whether the housing meets State or local building codes. Does a comparison of the housing in question with community norms and laws lead staff to conclude that it is lower than what community norms or laws require?..."
Collaborate with the community and school districts. See Example 1.
Example 1: Collaborate with the community
Talk to your community agencies about the possibility of providing limited transportation for students who are homeless. Emergency shelters may be willing to temporarily transport children to the program while the program is making other transportation arrangements. Shelters should be reimbursed for transportation costs.
Use a home-based option.
Combine resources throughout the community to fund transportation. See Example 2
Example 2: Combine resources
Transportation in the Bloomington, Illinois school district is supported by funds solicited from private organizations and fundraisers as well as McKinney-Vento.
and Example 3, which are examples from school districts.
Example 3: Combine resources
In Vancouver, Washington, 22 districts pooled resources to purchase buses and drivers and incorporated them within an existing special education pupil transportation cooperative to also provide services for homeless students.
Share costs for transportation and other direct services with local school systems.
Take into account special regulations such as the Head Start requirement to use special harness restraints for children and to have bus monitors on board.
Use a combination of funds (McKinney, Title I, Title IV, other federal and local funds) to provide a vehicle that will be used to transport children in homeless situations or to defray the cost of providing transportation using existing systems to additional children.
Partner with community and faith-based organizations to address transportation costs.
Contact and facilitate collaboration between all stakeholders including shelter and service providers/staff, school bus dispatchers and drivers, special education transportation personnel, personnel in other school districts, area homeless education liaisons, area transportation directors, parents, teachers/counselors, public transportation systems officials.
Designate a district-level point of contact to arrange and coordinate transportation (e.g. local transportation director).
Emphasize the importance of stability for families in homeless situations.
Take advantage of transportation systems used by public assistance agencies (e.g., Access to Jobs Program). Coordinate with public assistance agencies whose clients cannot work unless their children are in school.
Collaborate with local public agencies, service providers, and shelter directors to develop transportation plans or provide transportation. Explore opportunities for collaboration with AmeriCorps or VISTA volunteers.
Provide adequate transportation services
Re-route school buses to travel to shelters, transitional living projects, and motels where families experiencing homelessness reside. Arrange for these sites to be the first and last stops to keep a family’s living situation confidential.
Use vehicles which provide transportation to out-of-zone or district special education children for educational purposes and explore the possibility of expanding their routes to include children in homeless situations.
Provide passes for families to use existing public transportation routes where possible. Work with public transportation officials to explore altering existing routes to better service these families.
Reimburse families for gas.
Contact public transportation to offer bus tokens and passes at discounted rates for families in homeless situations
Use vans from other agencies (including Boys and Girls Club, faith-based organizations, and shelters).
Mary Lynn Diggs, Collaboration Director
South Carolina Head Start Collaboration Office
Mary Lynn Diggs is the director of the South Carolina Head Start State Collaboration Office. Select the link below to hear or read what Mary Lynn has to say about transportation in Head Start based on homelessness.
A McKinney-Vento sub-grant is an award made from and by the McKinney-Vento coordinator in a state to a local education entity. It allows the McKinney-Vento coordinator at the local school district to better partner and to provide some basic needs that sometimes cannot be met when families are moving through and they're transitioning out of homelessness. We deal with the issue of the school of origin. A McKinney-Vento sub-grant can assist a family if they must leave one site and maybe move to the other side of town, then the child doesn't have to change schools. That's a real issue for Head Start and for public schools, so transportation can be provided through that sub-grant.