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'There are many we don't know about' A statewide program aims to help homeless youth

marana school
Posted at 6:45 AM, Mar 25, 2022

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For children and families experiencing homelessness, there's a program at schools across the state that is here to help. The Homeless Education or McKinney -Vento Program gives children support they need to thrive, from backpacks to school transportation.

In 1987, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act passed and was reauthorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. This makes sure that students experiencing housing instability are able to go to school and receive the support they need to be successful.

Marisa Castro, a social worker for MUSD, said it's important to identify the students that need a helping hand.

"There are many that we don’t know that we want to know about to help them," she said.

The program gives students transportation to and from school, clothing, toiletries, referral to health services, food services, housing services, backpacks and much more.

She said in the 2018-2019 school year, about 20,000 kids were identified as those with unstable housing. The Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness reports over 1,000 kids were experiencing homelessness, with another 700 youth at risk for homelessness.

"We have youth unaccompanied out there and we have families becoming homeless altogether," Jocelyn Muzzin, the TPCH vice chair, said.

Castro said the definition for homelessness is broad under the McKinney-Vento Act. It defines homeless youth as "lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence". It may include children living in a hotel, couch surfing or a public place that isn't designed for regular sleeping.

"A student or family is staying with someone else, or sharing the housing temporarily, that’s actually the majority of the students that we work with,” Castro said.

She said children experiencing these struggles are identified through surveys that students receive at the beginning of the year or by their teachers. She said sometimes people call the school for this assistance too.

"All districts and charters are required to have a homeless education program and a liaison that oversees it and implements systems to identify students," Castro said. "If a student is identified during any point of the school year they will start receiving services through the end of that school year and potentially into future school years."

Castro said each school is always looking for community support. If you're interested in donating anything from tutoring time to backpacks, the contact information for Tucson schools are found below.


Tina Giuliano is a reporter for KGUN 9. She is a native Arizonan and grew up in Scottsdale. Tina is passionate about storytelling and is excited to work telling Tucson's stories. Share your story ideas and important issues with Tina by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.