Dominique Marshall moved a lot in her youth. She called many different places “home” over short periods of time when she was 17. She learned at a young age that the public school staff and liaisons she grew up around weren’t adequately trained to recognize homeless students.
“I wasn’t identified at the school I was at and because of that I didn’t qualify for many services until I went to a shelter,” Marshall, 23, says. “Even then, the liaison in Philadelphia didn’t really have a conversation about what was going on.”
The McKinney-Vento Act requires every school district to designate a liaison that identifies homeless students to help them receive needed services. Schools have to immediately enroll children who are homeless even if they don’t have the typical paperwork. The students are also given school uniforms, if they are used, and transportation services.
Marshall had to advocate for herself. She stayed in a shelter for nearly a month through the Runaway and Homeless Youth program, a short-term transitional residential program, but she ended up couch surfing again at friends’ and families’ homes soon thereafter. It became difficult to find a job, and housing grants were unattainable. The 23-year-old later ended up having to drop out of college.