VI. Policy Implications

As was the case concerning the Camp Fire disaster, many of the public policy challenges that existed before the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis are likely to be exacerbated in its aftermath. Although emergency funds continue to be offered by the federal government, a lack of understanding of the nuanced ways in which students experience homelessness and housing insecurity presents an ongoing challenge. To better support children and families experiencing homelessness, aggressive policy initiatives will need to be enacted to reduce the educational, social, and health disparities likely to be exacerbated by the pandemic.

We draw connections to key findings from the report and explain how they can be used to inform the development of public policies. Policymakers at each level of government have distinct responsibilities to address historical patterns of inequality. They must also create greater coordination in the delivery of services to address the growing crisis of student homelessness.

Policymakers at each level of government have distinct responsibilities to address historical patterns of inequality. They must also create greater coordination in the delivery of services to address the growing crisis of student homelessness.

School District Policies

  • Ensure that district resources for students experiencing homelessness are aligned with Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals, taking into account the likely number of students experiencing homelessness and their needs.
  • Encourage the development and sharing of common district-wide strategies for identifying and serving students experiencing homelessness so that responsibility for doing so does not fall solely upon the homeless liaison. This information sharing could help elevate strategies in place that districts may not know about. Additionally, prioritizing site-based liaisons can help eliminate school barriers to learning.
  • Adopt a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework to organize schools around the needs and learning interests of students experiencing homelessness. Reduce suspensions that disproportionately impact unhoused students and students of color, and embrace alternative strategies to punitive discipline approaches.

Cities & County Policies

  • Work between school districts, city and county agencies to provide and coordinate access to resources to support students and families experiencing homelessness (e.g., affordable housing, neighborhood safety, reliable public transportation, and access to job training).
  • Encourage the support of development for after-school programming and community services from businesses, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits.
  • Improve coordination across city departments to ensure more efficient service delivery and access to basic needs in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by housing instability.
  • Focus on improving access to affordable housing options for young people and families, including college age students.
  • Establish city-led efforts that focus more deliberately on K-12 and college level rapid rehousing partnerships that meet student basic needs and address housing security challenges early for young people.

State Policies

  • Provide more targeted funding to augment Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in counties and districts that have the highest concentration of homelessness, as identified in the CTS state map on student homelessness.
  • Continue to invest in data systems like the Cradle to Career longitudinal data system and standard procedures for identifying and tracking the educational progress and health of students experiencing homelessness, from birth to employment.
  • Increase access to high-quality early education programs as a foundational strategy for targeting resources and services for young children and families.
  • Expand investments in the college-focused rapid rehousing and basic needs efforts to reach more CCC, CSU and UC campuses that are being impacted by the student homelessness crisis.

Federal Policies

Establish a standard definition for student homelessness to improve the identification of young people for targeted support and resources to eliminate confusion that multiple definitions create for educators and school systems.

  • Adequately fund the McKinney Vento Act (MVA) to allow for federal resources to be directed to the state and local systems at a much larger scale to support homeless student success and to address the student homelessness crisis across states. Currently, 2 out of 3 students experiencing homelessness in California are not being reached by MVA dollars due to limited federal funding.
  • Expand funding for full-service community schools to support primary health, mental health, and dental care in schools. Adopt educational models that invest in young people before and after school.
  • Incentivize state efforts through federal funding streams that strengthen coordination between early childhood education, colleges, housing, employment, and homelessness services providers as part of a whole-family approach to improve both child and family outcomes.
  • Increase financial aid packages to cover the total cost of attendance for low-income students, including students experiencing homelessness, who often have to cover the majority of the cost of attendance out of pocket.