Passed by Congress in 1987, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the primary federal law related to the education of homeless children and youth, from prekindergarten through high school graduation. It provides special protections to “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

The law is intended to provide homeless students the same educational opportunities as housed students by removing any barriers to their learning.

Qualifying students include those who are currently sharing housing due to a loss of housing or economic hardship (“doubled-up” or “couch-surfing”); living in shelters, motels or campgrounds; or sleeping in cars, in public spaces, in abandoned buildings, outside or in substandard housing. Housing is considered substandard if it lacks basic necessities, like heat or running water.

Students who are living with adults other than their parent or legal guardian may also qualify.

McKinney-Vento students have the right to continue attending their original school, whether or not they continue living within the same school district. The district is obligated to coordinate transportation for these students.

If a student chooses to attend a new school, they must be enrolled immediately, even if they lack normally required documents like immunization records or proof of residence.


Every district is required to have at least one McKinney-Vento liaison who helps support students and families, and provides referrals to community resources.

For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education’s website at, watch this video and find your local McKinney-Vento liaison online.

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If you would like to help homeless youth and their families, we have compiled a list of area resources.

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