What is student homelessness?

Homeless children and youth have the right to equal access to the same free, appropriate public education as other children and youth. The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act) ensures this right for ‘homeless children and youth,’ identified as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition includes: sharing the housing of other people (“doubling-up”); living in emergency or transitional shelters; living in motels, hotels or camp grounds; and living in vehicles, public spaces, abandoned buildings, or substandard housing. Homeless ‘unaccompanied minors,’ or youth who have been abandoned or who have run away from home, are also eligible for the rights and services provided under the McKinney-Vento Act.

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, states must work to identify and mitigate any barriers to the identification, enrollment, attendance, and school success of students experiencing homelessness. Rights include immediate school enrollment even when records are not available, maintaining stable school placement (determined by a student’s best interest) even if outside typical transportation boundaries, and receiving support for academic success. Services vary by district and may include school transportation, tutoring, counseling, extracurricular programs, clothing, fees for educational materials, extracurricular activities or testing, and referral to health services.

Why is student homelessness important?

In the 2017-18 school year, there were 21,756 homeless K-12 students in Oregon, which represents 3.75% of the total enrollment. The percentage of K-12 students experiencing homelessness has been greater than 3% of total enrollment since the 2008-2009 school year.

School stability is an important factor in a student’s academic and social growth. Students experiencing homelessness lacking a stable, fixed living arrangement, can be particularly vulnerable to changing schools. Research has shown that students can lose academic progress with each school change.

Additionally, highly mobile students have been found to have lower test scores and worse academic performance than their peers. In 2017-18, across all grades in Oregon K-12 schools, students experiencing homelessness were significantly behind all students in meeting or exceeding standards in English Language Arts (31.6% vs. 54.9%), Math (17.7% vs 40.5%), and Science (39.6% vs. 60.2%). Students who were homeless were also less likely to be on track to graduate in 9th grade, at 60.2%, compared to 84.5% among all 9th graders.

Please remember the following
  • OCID only includes children born in Oregon since 2001; ideally, the dataset will be expanded over time to represent all of the children in Oregon.
  • OCID only includes education data for children attending Oregon public schools.
  • To display race and ethnicity categories consistently across multiple data sources, OCID currently combines information from vital statistics, education, Medicaid, and child welfare records. Visit our Race and Ethnicity Data Overview to learn more.
  • To protect the identities of individuals, OCID only shows results for populations; where populations are too small and could risk revealing identifiable information, OCID displays the result as “Suppressed.”

For more information about the details and limitations of the data, please visit our Technical Dictionary and Dataset Overview.

Want to dive deeper?

Explore the interactive display below to investigate potential trends or disparities among groups of children with the same well-being outcome.


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Suggested citation: Center for Evidence-based Policy, Oregon Health & Science University. Student homelessness dashboard. Oregon Child Integrated Dataset (OCID) website. https://www.ocid-cebp.org/outcome/student-homelessness/. Published June 4, 2020.

The Center for Evidence-based Policy partners with the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, also at Oregon Health & Science University, on dashboard analytics.