This page provides resources and case studies about effective strategies for cross-systems collaboration among housing and service providers for the homeless and the education system.
In communities across the country, homeless service providers, K-12 education systems, early childhood care providers and other public and private entities are working together to implement effective strategies for responding to the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. These partnerships are based on a shared understanding and appreciation of the ways in which housing stability and educational success are mutually beneficial. Critical to the success of these efforts is active cross-systems collaboration through which agencies and organizations with the skills and resources for addressing housing, education, employment, counseling, child care, and other basic needs work together to achieve these common objectives – in the context of a commitment to the broader goal of preventing and ending homelessness.
Housing + ED: Let’s All Get Ahead! provides access to a set of tools designed to strengthen state and local partnerships that help homeless service providers, school systems, youth services providers, and early childhood providers work together more effectively. These partnerships strive to better achieve the common goals of preventing and ending homelessness by increasing housing stability, self-sufficiency, and educational success for homeless children, youth, and their families.
Cross-systems collaboration lies at the heart of the strategies advocated by Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, published by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) in 2010 and updated in 2015. The Federal Strategic Plan recognized that by forming local partnerships, communities can better identify, engage, and respond to the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. This commitment to collaboration guides programs that address homelessness supported under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
On the local level, these partnerships typically include: Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program recipients; State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs); Head Start; Early Head Start; other early childhood education providers, and Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHY) funded providers. These programs all serve people experiencing homelessness in different but highly complementary ways.
The following materials are designed to facilitate collaboration among this broad range of programs, and related stakeholders and systems. They explore and provide links to tools that highlight promising strategies that communities can consider and adapt for themselves.
Improving cross-systems coordination and partnership helps both local and state homeless provider and educational systems to better serve children, youth, and families who are experiencing homelessness. Collaboration is important because people rarely experience homelessness as an isolated event. Housing stability significantly affects how children fare in school. Conversely, services that enable children to remain in school or early care help to moderate some of the disruption of a family housing crisis, including limiting child care needs for families in shelter. When homeless and educational services providers work together, each can better concentrate on core functions and strengths and build more responsive and robust solutions.
Coordination of efforts creates benefits for children, youth, and families, and for the systems that serve them. Active cross-systems collaborations establish a foundation from which both homeless services programs and educational services providers can most effectively address housing, education, and other needs of these vulnerable households. The Housing and Education Collaborations to Serve Homeless Children, Youth, and Families brief is designed to help homeless service providers and homeless education staff better understand each other’s role in these systems.
As highlighted in Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, “Homeless school age children are more likely than similar age children in the general population to have emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and manifestations of aggressive behavior. Repeated school mobility leads to decreased academic achievement, negatively impacting both the child’s and the school’s overall performance.” Increased cross-systems communication and collaboration can help education, Continuum of Care (CoC), and Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) providers that serve homeless children, youth, and families better understand these social and emotional dynamics and, in turn, develop and deliver more meaningful and appropriate services.
Research sponsored over the past several years by the MacArthur Foundation (How Housing Matters), the Annie E. Casey Foundation (National Center for Children in Poverty), and the What Works Collaborative (Urban Institute), as well as other academic and governmental research partnerships, suggests that housing stability and educational success are closely linked and mutually reinforcing. Findings of the recently published Family Options Study also establish a strong link between housing stability and child and family well-being. Providers of shelter, housing, and related support services for children and youth experiencing homelessness can support the academic success of children and youth by strengthening their linkages to school systems and community-based education programs. Similarly, educational services provided by Local Education Agencies (LEAs), homeless education liaisons, teachers, social workers, and early childhood education providers can help connect at-risk households to housing and services, and strengthen developmental outcomes for children and youth, thereby contributing to housing stability and prevention of family homelessness. Read more about the role of schools in the Urban Institute Brief, “Housing and Schools: Working Together to Reduce the Negative Effects of Student Mobility” and “Homelessness and Education Cross-System Collaboration: Applied Research Summary and Tools” by the National Center for Homeless Education.
Children and youth in families with stable housing attend school more consistently, perform better academically, experience less stress/mental health trauma, and are less likely to be disruptive in the school setting. Conversely, high degrees of school mobility have been linked to decreased levels of academic achievement. Provision of high quality educational services and supports to homeless children and youth helps decrease the stress of parents associated with child care needs as they deal with finding or maintaining housing and other challenges of homelessness. Access to stable educational settings for children and youth (including Early Head Start, Head Start, and K-12 programs) undergirds parental success in maintaining employment and economic stability, and thus supports subsequent housing stability. For more information on the relationship between education and housing stability, see School Stability and School Performance: Literature Review by the National Center for Homeless Education.
With this broader context as background, it is relatively easy to identify a number of ways in which cross-systems collaboration can enhance the impact of both the homeless provider and educational service systems in responding to the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing a housing crisis.
Communities all across the country have been leading the way with innovative collaborations between homeless education and housing and service providers. Use the links below to access profiles of these promising practices. Each profile includes background information on the community collaboration, challenges that the community has experienced, resources and strategies that have supported their success, and key lessons learned from these partnerships.
This Continuum of Care (CoC) and Education (ED) Collaboration Case Study describes a promising practice in Washington, D.C. in which the CoC and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) have worked together using a sophisticated, collaborative data sharing system containing student and education-related data.
Date Published: February 2016
This CoC and ED Collaboration Case Study describes a promising practice in Waco, Texas between the CoC and the Waco Independent School District (WISD). These organizations worked together using the local CoC’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), thereby effectively linking students with unmet needs and their families to community resources.
Date Published: February 2016