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ARP II-HCY and Its Impact on Education Service Agencies

September 6, 2023


Education Service Agencies (ESAs) across the country have found themselves building up an entirely new division in their Federal Programs departments. In March of 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) into law. The Act includes an unprecedented $800 million to support children and youth experiencing homelessness via the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY). Federal law authorizes the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Chapter 119, Part B, 42 U.S.C. 11431 et seq., to designate a state coordinator, develop a state plan, award subgrants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), provide technical assistance and professional development, and fulfill numerous other statutory requirements on behalf of homeless children and youth. Education Services Agencies are to use those funds to increase awareness, enrollment, identification and support for students experiencing homelessness who find themselves eligible for McKinney-Vento protections and services. Local Education Agencies that receive an allocation of less than $5,000 are required to join a Shared Service Arrangement (SSA) through their local ESA.

There are a multitude of creative ways in which LEAs that chose to retain their funds are putting those monies to good use. Many districts across the nation have been able to establish a

strong infrastructure, replete with a Director of Federal Programs, Homeless liaison, Social Worker, and a team of paraprofessionals tasked with tutoring, mentoring, and providing wraparound services for youth experiencing homelessness. In San Bernardino County, California, the Superintendent of Schools used the funds to hire Peer Support Associates, a staff of young men and women who have had their own lived experiences of homelessness. These staff members mentor youth and train educators and the local community in all things McKinney-Vento, bringing awareness to its legislative requirements, the plight of homelessness among youth in Southern California, and the importance of building positive relationships with youth experiencing homelessness. The Peer Support Associates used a portion of their funds to purchase and distribute over 11,000 backpacks filled with school supplies in a back-to-school event and will use the data-gathering from the event to inform and direct future ARP-funded activities (SHC, 2022).

Homeless liaison Dr. Kathy Wigtil in Waco, Texas, is using a portion of Waco ISD’s ARP-HCY funds to collaborate with community organizations such as The Cove, a Waco-based nonprofit designed to provide a safe space for youth experiencing homelessness to access the resources they need to thrive. Director of The Cove, Dr. Tim Packer, shared the following about the collaborative work The Cove and Waco ISD have accomplished together:

We established an attendance recovery opportunity during our evening programming. There are two key criteria for youth experiencing homelessness to remain eligible for this. First, they must be engaging with their normal school program, including attending the relevant day of programming. Second, they must participate in “productive time” that evening which includes homework, spending time with tutors, or other educational activities. All hours are reported back to Waco ISD and allocated toward young people’s attendance credits. Tutors, paid partly through Waco ISD’s ARP-HCY funds, are present to support young people in completing assignments and providing support on specific topics. For every student accessing services at The Cove, we prioritize (re-)engaging with the school district; including assisting with registration, tackling transportation issues, and liaising with a range of school staff as issues or concerns are raised by or about a youth.

To date, The Cove, in collaboration with Waco ISD, has served approximately 155 high-school-aged youth across McLennan County. They have delivered meals, food packs, hygiene items, school supplies, transportation for wraparound services support such as obtaining IDs, access to emergency housing, registration assistance, and more.

Districts that received less than $5,000 and were required to join a Shared Service Arrangement and/or districts that received more than $5,000 but opted to join an SSA rather than retain their funds have found themselves finding support for a subpopulation so often underserved and overlooked. Education Service Agencies across the state of Louisiana, for example, are using ARP-HCY funds for summer programming and wraparound services from community organizations through a partnership with Harvard Innovation Lab. For districts that have joined the ARP-HCY SSA, students receive free mental health counseling and tutoring services, and homeless liaisons are tasked with establishing mentoring partnerships with their local Boys and Girls Clubs. The Louisiana Department of Education awarded $3,200,095, which is 75% of the state’s ARP-HCY funds, to Subgrantees serving approximately 72% of the total homeless population in the state. Those ESC subgrantees are committed to servicing homeless students in an ever-changing political environment and challenges faced by several natural disasters. Many of their students experiencing homelessness did not enroll last year, chose the virtual option, or became transit, providing little to no information on the whereabouts to the homeless liaisons. Therefore, the consolidated application to join the ARP-HCY SSA was developed to encourage braiding of funds to provide opportunities for innovative ways to aid in identification, enrollment and outreach purposes. The ESCs are using the McKinney Vento Subgrant funds primarily on the mandatory areas that all subgrantees must fund such as tutoring, wraparound services, professional development, transportation, summer programming, and payment of fees and supplies. The additional funding from ARP-HCY will be used to supplement services by providing temporary shelter, store cards, cell phones for unaccompanied youth, etc., in a more robust manner. Additionally, ESCs, in partnership with Louisiana Public Broadcasting, have come together to host 750 families experiencing homelessness in STEM workshops. ESCs are training LEAs on how to facilitate STEM academies in their respective communities. The workshop trains parents how to provide emotional support during the learning process when their child is faced with a challenging problem and teaches parents how they can be engaged at home with their children in light of Covid-19 by using basic home supplies. (LA ARP-HCY State Plan, 2021).

Anecdotal Implications

With the significant amount of money poured into the ARP-HCY, Education Service Agencies have turned their attention to increasing awareness throughout their respective regions. Stories like the following are coming to light as communities realize the plight of children and youth across the country.

There is enabling, and then there is providing much-needed support to a disenfranchised population. Often, advocates for special interests or underserved populations are touted as the former rather than the latter; and while there may be situations where enabling is the case, they are few and far between, especially in regards to students experiencing homelessness and the liaisons who look after them.

Homeless liaisons working to fulfill the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act are often criticized for enabling children and youth experiencing homelessness when, in fact, they are advocating for students experiencing homelessness. Due to privacy concerns, the liaison does not have the luxury of being able to share the students’ lived experiences with others, which would help dispel the myth that liaisons enable homelessness or counterintuitive behaviors.

I recently stood in the front office of a campus waiting for a meeting to commence when I observed a particularly disturbing interaction. The district’s homeless liaison arrived on campus, approached the Attendance Clerk, and kindly asked her to excuse a student Janna’s recent absences under McKinney-Vento permissions. With thin lips pressed firmly together, the Attendance Clerk responded with a curt nod and proceeded to enter the excusals into the attendance reporting system. The homeless liaison politely thanked her and, with a friendly wave goodbye, left the front office intent on attending to the next task. As soon as the door closed behind her, the Attendance Clerk turned to the Receptionist and in (not so) hushed tones proceeded to castigate the homeless liaison for enabling a student’s poor attendance, especially Janna’s. She went on to say she felt it was unfair that the Liaison could waltz in and wave her magic wand so that Poof! All absences are hereby erased, discharged, gone! She continued the diatribe by sharing details of Janna’s excessive discipline record, bad attitude toward teachers, and how Janna did not, in the least, deserve one bit of grace. In fact, she exclaimed, Janna had only become more entitled with each handout sent her way.

So, here is what the Attendance Clerk and Receptionist did not know about Janna. She and her mother, fourteen school days prior to that morning, had been unexpectedly evicted from their residence. They had come home around nine o’clock in the evening from a school event to find every scrap of their furniture, personal belongings, trash, treasures, and accouterments strewn across the tiny strip of the apartment complex called a front lawn. With little light to illuminate the mess, no personal vehicle, and certainly no money to hire a mover for assistance, they grabbed whatever holdall they could find and filled it to the brim with the absolute essentials; a few pairs of underwear, a couple of t-shirts, some jeans, a favorite photo and a stash of important documents. After looking wearily up and down the street, Mom took a determined step toward the local community park and Janna followed dutifully behind, what little of her life’s belongings she could carry slung precariously over her shoulder.

The next two weeks mother and daughter were in utter survival mode. One friend took them in for a week until they wore out their welcome. They couch surfed the next three days; literally, four houses over three days. They tried a women’s shelter but did not qualify because there was no domestic abuse to report. They tried a temporary shelter but the clientele terrified Janna, and she didn’t sleep one minute of the long night. To say that school attendance was high on her priority list those two weeks would be laughable. She was worried for her mother and absolutely in it for the long haul with her. In addition, the high-density housing apartment complex from which they had been evicted housed no fewer than fifty classmates from her high school, all of whom had seen the remnants of her life scattered across the lawn as they trudged onto the bus stop the next morning. DMs, snaps, and even a meme that went viral swirled in cyberspace mocking Janna, and displaying her unfortunate circumstances for all of her world to see. She dreaded the thought of walking back onto the campus and suffering the piteous stares of kids she had known since kindergarten.

After her fifth consecutive absence, and upon hearing rumors of this family’s plight, school administrators reached out to the district’s homeless liaison and asked that she look into the situation. The liaison was already familiar with the family, and, with a bit of investigating, was able to track down Janna and her mother. She provided them meal cards, public transportation credit, a change of clothes, and got them checked into a local temporary shelter where Janna felt more comfortable. The homeless liaison continued to spend the next few days coordinating services and helping the mother apply for available housing. When the homeless liaison went into the school after Janna’s fourteenth consecutive absence and requested her excusals, she did so knowing that doing so was truly in the best interest of the family. Truancy court was the last thing Janna needed at that moment.

Janna’s story is not as unusual as one might think. During the 2019-20 school year, public schools identified 1,280,886 students experiencing homelessness. Seventy-eight percent of students identified as homeless were doubled up with others, while 11% stayed at shelters, 7% stayed at hotels or motels, and 4% stayed in unsheltered situations. In Texas alone, over 114,000 were identified as homeless (NCES, 2021). Four out of five youths experiencing homelessness are exposed to at least one serious violent event by the age of 12 (SAMHSA, 2022).

Janna’s story is one of many and far more common than many realize or are willing to acknowledge. This is where Education Service Agencies are able to step in and support a growing need. ARP-HCY funds are designed to support efforts to identify youth experiencing homelessness, provide them with comprehensive, wrap-around services that address needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and allow them to attend school and participate fully in all school activities (Program Guidelines, ARP Homeless II Federal Grant, 2021). Education Service Centers (ESCs) in Texas, with the assistance of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as the pass-through entity, provide technical assistance to local education agencies (LEAs) as the subgrantees to meet program guidelines. LEAs that received allocations of less than $5,000 were required to join a Shared Service Arrangement (SSA).

Perhaps the most notable impact the ARP-HCY grant has made in its first year of implementation is simply bringing awareness to stories like Janna’s. Many people, when hearing the word homelessness envision someone living under an overpass or camping out in a park. The

truth is, the word homeless is far more articulated and specific than that. In the state of Texas specifically, Texas Education Code, §25.001, adheres to the McKinney–Vento Act’s definition of youth experiencing homelessness which defines homeless children and youth as individuals who lack a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The term homeless children and youth includes “children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement.” The term also includes “children and youths 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,” such as “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus/train stations, or similar settings” (TEA, 2016). With the funds from the ARP-HCY grant, LEAs and ESCs are able to invest in professional development, awareness campaigns, and collaboratives with local nonprofit organizations working to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.

Whether Janna would have suffered the outcome of truancy court or not as a result of her excessive absences, one thing is certain. Janna graduated with a multidisciplinary endorsement this past year. Without the support of her homeless liaison, that feat may not have been

possible. The homeless liaison had no qualms about suffering the judgment of those who failed to understand the importance of her work and the value of the McKinney-Vento Act. Continuing the work with the support of ARP II funds, Title I funds, ESCs and LEAs working together is essential, important, and life-changing for youth like Janna.


Louisiana Believes – Louisiana Department of Education. (2021, September 7). Louisiana’s

ARP-HCY State Plan. Retrieved from

National Center for Homeless Education. (2021). Student Homelessness in America: School

Years 2017-18 to 2019-20. Retrieved from

SchoolHouse Connection. (2022). San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, California.

Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, April 22). Homelessness

Resources: Youth. Retrieved from

Texas Education Agency. (2022). Program Guidelines; 2021-2024 ARP Homeless II Federal

Grant.  Retrieved from

Texas Education Code, 2E §25.001. (2023). Retrieved from

Texas Homeless Education Office. (2016). Homeless Students in Texas Public Schools.

Retrieved from


Amber Loubiere, Ed.D

Education Specialist, McKinney-Vento & Title I Federal Programs

ESC Region 12

Waco, Texas


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