WHAT HOMELESS FAMILIES NEED TO KNOW
- Ms. Regina Bertholdo, the Director of the Parent Information Center, is the Homeless Liaison for students and families in the Somerville Public Schools.
- Children and youth experiencing homelessness have the right to attend school.
- A permanent address is not needed to enroll in school.
- Children in homeless situations have the right to stay in the school they attended before becoming homeless or where they last enrolled (school of origin) if the parent or guardian so chooses.
- Schools must provide a written explanation if a placement dispute occurs; parents/guardians may contact the District's Homeless Liaison.
- A homeless child cannot be denied school enrollment just because school records or other enrollment documentation are not immediately available and must be enrolled immediately.
- A homeless child has the right to participate in extracurricular activities and all federal, state, or local programs for which he/she is eligible.
- A homeless child is entitled to free breakfast and lunch, transportation assistance and to receive Title 1 services.
- Unaccompanied youth, homeless youth not living with parent(s) or guardian(s), have these same rights.
A homeless student is one who:
- Does not have a permanent home
- Lives in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds
- Is in State care or custody Lives in cars, parks, public places, abandoned buildings, sub-standard buildings, or similar settings
- Shares housing of other persons due to the loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason
- Is considered an unaccompanied youth (youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian) Is placed in a Starr Program
District Policy On Homelessness
Policy for McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act
The goal of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act is to ensure that each homeless child or youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths. The Somerville Public Schools (SPS) shall ensure that every effort is made to comply with this legislation.
SPS is in compliance with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MADESE) which has adopted Section 725 (2) of Act regarding the definition of homeless children and youth:
- Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or have a primary nighttime residence in a supervised, publicly or privately, operated shelter for temporary accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill), an institution providing temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
This definition shall include:
- Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement (temporary, transitional or emergency placements);
- Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
- Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
- Unaccompanied youth - a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.
The McKinney-Vento Act requires the every school district to designate a staff person to serve as the Homeless Education Liaison whose role is to assist homeless students enroll in school, remove all barriers to enrollment, ensure that homeless students receive the educational services for which they are eligible and have access to all school activities and events. This liaison may have other duties within the school district. The liaison for the Somerville Public Schools is the Parent Information Center Coordinator. He/she may be reached by phone at 617-625-6600 x 6060 or by email through the Homeless section of this website, www.somerville.k12.ma.us/homeless. The office is located at 42 Prescott Street, Somerville, Massachusetts.
The Somerville Public Schools will immediately enroll (students attend class) homeless students in school, even if they do not have the documents usually required for enrollment - such as school records, medical records, proof of residency, discipline records, or birth certificate. Furthermore:
The Somerville Public Schools shall ensure that transportation is provided according to state guidelines, at the request of the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth, to and from the school or origin:
ACCESS TO COMPARABLE SERVICES
Homeless students are to be provided services and education programs comparable to those received by other students and for which they meet eligibility criteria, such as services provided under Title I or similar state or local programs; programs for students with disabilities; programs for students with limited English proficiency; vocational or technical programs; gifted and talented programs; tutoring; MCAS remediation; homework assistance; referral to counseling; medical services; school supplies; and school nutrition programs. Homeless students will be enrolled immediately in the free breakfast and lunch program.
NOTE: To expedite the delivery of nutritional benefits, school officials may accept documentation that students are homeless from the local educational liaison or the director of homeless shelter where the students reside as the determination of eligibility for free lunch.
ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL
An important goal of McKinney-Vento is to offer homeless preschoolers the same opportunity to enroll, and attend and succeed in preschool as non-homeless preschoolers, thereby minimizing their educational disruption due to homelessness. The Somerville District Homeless Education Liaison and early care and education providers, including child development and preschool program personnel child care resource and referral agencies and other service providers, must coordinate and collaborate to review and revise practices, or policies that inadvertently act as barriers to the enrollment of homeless children in child care and early education programs.
If a dispute arises over school selection (school of origin or school in which homeless child is residing) or enrollment, the Somerville Public Schools will immediately enroll the homeless student - pending resolution of the dispute - and must provide the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth with both a written statement of the school placement decision and a notice of the right to appeal the decision. The SPS shall refer the unaccompanied youth, parent or guardian to the Homeless Education Liaison, who will expeditiously carry out the dispute resolution process. Disputes which cannot be resolved within the district will be sent to the Massachusetts Department of Education, and the final decision in such a situation resides with Massachusetts Commissioner of Education.
UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH & CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN STATE CARE OR CUSTODY
Unaccompanied youth are youth who are homeless; not in the physical custody of a parent/guardian; and not in the custody of a state agency. This definition includes youth living on the street, in inadequate housing, denied housing by their families, those who have left home voluntarily, even when their parent/s want them to return home, and youth doubled up with friends or relatives. Also, in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, MADESE has determined that children and youth in state care or custody who have been placed out of their homes into temporary, transitional, or emergency living placements are awaiting foster care placement and are therefore homeless. For example, Stabilization, Assessment and Rapid Reintegration/Reunification (STARR) Programs are short-term DCF placements that have replaced the temporary, transitional, or emergency housing previously proved by "bridge" homes, diagnostic assessment centers, and shelters, and as a result, placement in STARR Programs, both latency and adolescent, are considered temporary, transitional, or emergency homeless housing under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistant Act.Unaccompanied youth or students in state care or custody who are awaiting foster care are entitled to the same educational rights and services; including transportation, under McKinney-Vento as any homeless child or youth in the care of their parent(s)/ guardian(s).
Adopted: May 15, 2006
Amended: October 5, 2009
Somerville Community Resources for Families in Need
- Somerville Homeless Coalition (shelter, housing and food services): 617-623-6111
- Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (food, job, and cash assistance and emergency shelter): 617-629-1400
- Shelter for Battered Women and Their Children: Emergency Line: 617-661-7203, General Information: 617-354-2676
- St. Patrick’s Shelter (shelter for homeless women): 617-628-3051
- CASPAR Emergency Service Center (assistance for homeless men and women with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol): 617-661-0600
- Community Action Agency of Somerville (Head Start program for toddlers, access to public benefits, and assistance with eviction prevention): 617-623-7370
- Heading Home (housing assistance to families and individuals): 617-864-8140
- RESPOND, Inc. (emergency shelter, safe home, support, counseling, legal advocacy for women and children): 617-625-5996
- Respond Hotline (24 hours): 617-623-5900
- Elizabeth Peabody House (educational, social, recreational services for families): 617-623-5510
- Catholic Charities (helps the needy): 617-625-1920
- Somerville Community Corporation (housing assistance for people who live in Somerville who are at risk of homelessness): 617-776-5931
- On The Rise (provides support for homeless women): 617-497-7968
- Cambridge/Somerville Legal Services: 617-603-2700
- Just a Start Community Development Corporation (transitional housing and tenant/landlord mediation): 617-494-0444
- Interfaith Social Services (food pantry, thrift shop, career clothing, counseling): 617-773-6203
- Massachusetts HEATLINE (fuel assistance): 1-800-632-8175
- Somerville Hospital: 617-591-4500
- Somerville Mental Health Association: 617-625-0710
- Substance Abuse Helpline: 617-292-5065
- Visiting Nurse Association (provides home health care and assisted living facilities): 617-623-3600
- Somerville Public Library: 617-623-5000
- Somerville YMCA: 617-625-5050
- Boys and Girls Club: 617-628-3665
- The Welcome Project: 617-623-6633