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Home: Advocacy

Advocating for Children Who Are Unstably Housed

We believe:
Communities must work collaboratively, creatively, and proactively to confront homelessness and ensure that the needs of children and teens without permanent homes are effectively met.

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Frequently Asked Questions (Download)

What are the estimated numbers of school-aged* children experiencing homelessness?
As of 2013, over 1,100,000 nationally, over 19,000 in the state, and over 1,800 in Allegheny County.

*The National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that you can add between 42% and 50% to the above numbers to account for children 0 to 5 years of age.

What is HCEF’s mission?
The mission of HCEF is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County by providing educational programs and services, serving as a trusted advocate, sharing expertise, and facilitating collaborative relationships that maximize the collective impact among community partners.

What is the federal law that drives the HCEF mission? 
McKinney- Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which entitles homeless children to receive a standard education.

Why do children, youth, and families become homeless? 

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Unemployment or low wages
  • Domestic violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Recent economic recession and home foreclosure crisis
  • Natural Disasters (i.e. fires, tornados, hurricanes, etc…)

How long do children, youth, and families remain homeless?
The average stay in a homeless provider agency is 5.7 months, and some surveys say the average is closer to a year (U. S. Conference of Mayors, 2007 and Santos, 2002).

What are the homeless provider agencies that HCEF serves? 

Allegheny Valley Association of Churches
Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center
Bridge to Independence
Center for Victims
Community Human Services
Crisis Center North
East End Cooperative Ministry
Family Promise of Southwestern PA
Gaudenzia Erie House of Crossroads
Light of Life Rescue Mission
Naomi’s Place
Salvation Army
Sisters Place
Sojourner House
Sojourner House MOMS
Three Rivers Youth
Veterans Leadership Program
Womanspace East
Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh
How does homelessness affect a child?
Homelessness is characterized by mobility as well as high rates of poverty, family stress, health problems, and traumatic life events such as domestic violence. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, children experiencing homelessness are:

  • Four times more likely than their peers to show delayed development
  • Twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children
  • Twice as likely as their peers to have emotional disturbances
  • More likely to experience significant educational disruption: Students who change schools due to homelessness typically fall behind academically 4-6 months per change in schools.

Mobility not only disrupts the classroom experience, it can also impede a child’s ability to build stable relationships with caring adults outside the immediate family – a crucial factor in their development at any age.

What are the barriers to children and youth receiving an adequate education?

  • Transportation
  • Identification
  • Enrollment
  • Lack of understanding by families and school districts on the rights of children experiencing homelessness and the responsibilities of schools
  • Federal law is unclear – a need for alignment among the McKinney-Vento Act, Title 1, and HUD is needed, as terms are defined differently
  • Insufficient educational funding

How does HCEF meet the educational needs of children/youth?

  • Learning Centers are child-centered educational spaces within homeless housing agencies that are equipped with computers, libraries, and a variety of educational resources.
  • Mini-Grants & Field Trip Grants equip homeless providers with funds that may be spent on educational programs, projects, materials, and community excursions.
  • Gear for Grades is HCEF’s annual backpack distribution in partnership with Citizens Bank that gives new backpacks and school supplies to more than 2,500 children each year.
  • Building Blocks for Success Afterschool & Summer Programs provide comprehensive educational support to children and youth residing in shelters and transitional residences.
  • Youth Enrichment Programs enable children to learn and grow academically, socially, and creatively through hands-on experiences.
  • Hope Through Learning Award for students who have experienced homelessness was offered for the first time in 2014.
How can I help?

  • Volunteer to help with educational programs, special events, and in-house operations.
  • Join HCEF’s Outreach Team, Speaker’s Bureau, Ambassadors, or Cabinet of Congregations.
  • Organize a small fundraiser at your business, school, or club and donate the proceeds. Or, educate your community about child homelessness in Allegheny County by sponsoring awareness-raising events.
  • Donate school supplies.
  • Attend an upcoming Homeless Education Network (HEN) meeting.
  • Contribute in-kind services such as printing, mailing, and technical support through your business. 
  • Attend our annual Champions for Children benefit.
  • Give a monetary donation.
  • Visit our website and Facebook page regularly and share it with your friends. It is a good source of information about the work of HCEF and about homelessness as it affects children and families generally.

Homeless Children's Education Fund • 2020 Smallman Street, Second Floor • Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone (412) 562-0154 • Fax (412) 562-1109 •
The Homeless Children's Education Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with United Way Donor Option #963315.
Donations are tax deductible in accordance with IRS rules and regulations. The official registration and financial information of the Homeless
Children's Education Fund may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999.
Registration does not imply endorsement.