Homeless Education Liaison Program (HELP)
Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) is dedicated to educating children and youth experiencing homelessness. Our Homeless Education Liaison Program (HELP) is committed to the academic success of our students who are experiencing homelessness. We understand the challenges facing these students and have programs in place to make certain they have the resources necessary to succeed. ACPS has a Homeless Education Liaison responsible for ensuring that homeless children are identified, enrolled, and receive equitable access to high-quality education and support services.
Anyone, due to a lack of housing, can be considered homeless if he or she lives in inadequate or temporary settings such as emergency or transitional shelters; motels, hotels, trailer parks, campgrounds, are abandoned in hospitals, living in cars, parks, public places, bus or train stations, or abandoned buildings; are doubled up with relatives or friends; or those living in these conditions and are migratory children or youth.
What Families Experiencing Homelessness Need to Know
- Children and youth have the right to attend school.
- You do not need a permanent address to enroll your child in school.
- Your child cannot be denied school enrollment when school records or other enrollment documentation are not immediately available.
- Children and youth experiencing homelessness can stay in their original school or enroll in any public school that students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend, according to their best interest.
- Schools must provide you with a written explanation if a dispute occurs; Contact your local Homeless Liaison for assistance in handling a dispute
- Your child may have the right to transportation services to and from the school or origin; if determined feasible.
- Your child automatically qualifies to participate in free breakfast and lunch programs.
- Your child has the right to participate in extracurricular activities and all federal, state, or local programs for which he/she is eligible. Transportation may be available for these activities.
- Unaccompanied homeless youth have the same rights (Contact the Homeless Education Liaison)
Free and Reduced Lunch Procedures
Students who are experiencing homelessness are entitled to free and/or reduced lunch and parents do not need to fill out the regular application form. Upon being identified as experiencing homelessness, the Homeless Education Liaison will notify ACPS’ Food and Nutrition staff.
ACPS is required to assist with providing transportation for students experiencing homelessness to and from school; if they choose, to remain at their school of origin. Transportation is arranged by the Homeless Education Liaison and maybe by school bus, public transportation, cab, fare card, or gas assistance for parent(s) or guardian(s). It can take up to three to five working days for transportation arrangements to be implemented. Rules and regulations are provided to the parent/guardian/unaccompanied homeless youth once transportation is arranged.
Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Unaccompanied youth must fit the definitions of both homeless and unaccompanied in the McKinney-Vento Act. An unaccompanied youth is a child or youth who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian and meet the homeless definition including:
- Young people who have run away from home.
- Young people who have been forced to leave their homes.
Their possible living situations include:
- Living with friends (couch surfing).
- Living in shelters.
- Living in cars, at campgrounds, in abandoned buildings, or on streets.
School may be the only safe, stable environment for unaccompanied youth. Schools can provide the necessary support(s) to ensure continued academic success for these vulnerable students. In addition to academics, schools can offer adult and peer support, meals, referrals to medical and mental health services, sports, clubs, and other activities. Schools should also connect these young people to other resources and supports available in the community.
For more resources and information on Virginia's Program for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth visit Project Hope VA, William and Mary.