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Success and Impact

As California grapples with homelessness, students need support
NCYL calls on lawmakers to urgently allocate $13M to replace expiring federal funding & to adopt AB 2137 to remove barriers to critical services

Teacher and student looking at work together

Every young person deserves access to a quality education that supports their safety and well-being. A student's living situation should never be a barrier to this critical connection, which can significantly shape their future.

For many California students experiencing homelessness, key educational services and support are in danger of being cut off.

The National Center for Youth Law calls on state lawmakers to stand up for this particularly vulnerable population of students — children are disproportionately impacted by California's dearth of affordable housing and rising rates of homelessness — by allocating $13 million in ongoing funding to continue initiatives that have proven transformative for young people across the state. This state budget allocation will replace pandemic-era federal funds that are set to expire this year, and also prevent California from lagging behind other states — like New York, Washington and Texas — that have invested state funding to continue key supports for students dealing with homelessness.

The funding would, among other benefits to students, enhance the ability of local agencies to identify, engage and educate children and families experiencing homelessness, plus allow for the development and implementation of programs to appropriately address the needs of each community. Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-65) is the leading champion of this crucial support.

NCYL is also a co-sponsor of Assembly Bill (AB) 2137, which would remove barriers that currently prevent Foster Youth Services Coordinating Programs from providing critical direct services, including tutoring, mentoring, and counseling, for students in foster care. For students experiencing homelessness, AB 2137 closes loopholes in the Local Control and Accountability Plan process to ensure their unique needs are considered as plans are developed. California Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-67) introduced the bill, also co-sponsored by John Burton Advocates for Youth, in February.

"It's critically important that we provide these students, who are often facing tremendous challenges, the services and supports they need to thrive," said Margaret Olmos, Director of the National Center for Youth Law's Compassionate Education Systems team in California. "California has historically been a leader in standing up for its young people, and many of its young people are now desperately in need."

Urgently needed funding

The American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) and Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) funds, both federal investments, provided critical support for students experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the majority of those funds are soon sunsetting.

Children and youth have been hit particularly hard in California, which over the past decade has experienced widespread economic hardship, increasingly unaffordable housing, and worsening natural disasters.

The number of students experiencing homelessness in the state is rising, according to recent data, but is still considered an underestimate. Children of color are disproportionately impacted.

There were 246,480 California students experiencing homelessness in the 2022-23 school year, according to the state's Department of Education. Latine students accounted for 70% of this total, despite making up just 55% of the overall student population. 

A $13 million statewide investment will not only pave the way to continue important programs jumpstarted by federal dollars during the pandemic, it would also allow the state to effectively implement new services and supports that will be increasingly needed as the population of students experiencing homelessness grows.

Specific interventions that could be implemented with the requested funding allocation:

  • Additional staffing and staffing support, including counselors who can address the social, emotional and mental health needs of students;
  • Improved access to technology and the internet;
  • After-school tutoring programs to ensure students have equal opportunities for success; and
  • The creation of school-based family resource centers that would improve access to basic necessities like food pantries and hot meals, clothing and laundry facilities, and family-friendly showers.

"This funding would make a world of difference for thousands of young people and their families," Olmos said. "Every child, regardless of their economic or housing circumstances, should have access to an education that responds to their needs and allows them to learn, grow and build the future they desire."