By Jennifer Lynn
November 27, 2017
Havlik’s research helps counselors tackle the complicated task of detecting homeless students, who can easily fly under the radar while attending school. Once they’re identified, they can receive support services afforded them by law.
“A lot of people are ashamed to be homeless, or there’s a stigma that surrounds being homeless. They also might not know that they’re homeless, particularly with that definition of double up,” Havlik said.
Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, schools are required to ensure homeless students receive transportation and the same quality of education as their peers with consistent housing. But, according to Havlik, school counselors, who represent the first line of support for homeless students, have limited awareness, knowledge, training, and resources to address more than homeless students’ basic needs.
“Some would say McKinney-Vento is aspirational in nature because of how homelessness can work, and there are so many definitions,” said Havlik. The act defines homeless students as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”
In an era when school budgets are stretched, it can be difficult to get transportation for needy students. “We’re also in a time where test scores could be important, so if you have a student that’s bringing down a test score, it might just be easier to have them go to another school,” she said. “Maybe they have a behavioral issue and they move out of the district, so the school may not push to have them continue.”
Havlik’s research shows counselors most effectively serve this population by coordinating efforts with school administrators and with social services outside of school.
Click here to hear Havlik discuss the needs of Philly’s homeless students on WHYY’s “Morning Edition.”