Homeless families with children represent the fastest growing section of the homeless population today. In fact, they constitute about 40 percent of all people who are homeless (Stronge & Popp, 1999) and studies show up to 2 million people under age eighteen are homelessness each year (Nieves, 2008). It is crucial that homeless children attend school and get an education, even if the odds are against them, so their chances of being homelessness as adults are decreased. The U.S. government relies on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to help these homeless students, but studies indicate that the immense pressures these students face outside of school still have profound negative effects on their academic success.
The US Department of Education (2004) defines homeless children as those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (p.2), but it also recognizes a wide range of living situations such as frequent mobility or living in shared housing (often a crowded residence with several other families), motels, cars, parks, makeshift housing, or shelters (US Department of Education, 2004, p.2)
Homeless students come from every race and cultural background, but a staggering ninety percent of homeless families are single-parent, headed by women (Mizerek & Hinz, 2004). Recently, as foreclosures and layoffs force families out of their homes, school districts across the nation are struggling to deal with a large increase in homeless students. Some school districts report increases of 50 to 100% or more, and an estimated 2 million children are at risk of homelessness because of the foreclosure crisis and recession (Nieves, 2008). Many people are forced to turn to the government for assistance in these situations.
The United States government currently addresses the needs of homeless students through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, signed into law in 1987. This federal law entitles homeless...