This page aims to provide resources and information to support staff members in the care of children who are experiencing homelessness or housing issues in our community.
According to the charity Shelter, 56% of teachers have homeless children in their classroom, and at the time of their report, 136,000 children were living homeless in Britain. In their study, 89% reported children arriving at school in unwashed or dirty clothing. This can be caused by a lack of proper or affordable washing facilities in temporary accommodation, as well as issues such as mould and damp in poor-quality housing.
This video from Shelter offers information about teaching homeless children at school.
Shelter have a free emergency helpline, webchat service, and local advice, support and legal services
Shelter have advice on help and housing for care leavers. The information page also has a link for support with emergency housing
Homeless link have a search engine to find services near you.
Centrepoint provides homeless young people (16-25) in Manchester (and other UK locations) with accommodation, health support and life skills in order to get them back into education, training and employment.
School Home Support offer practitioner services for school attendance issues for disadvantages students.
Further information and suggestions from Catalyst
Remember that as an education professional, you cannot solve all your CYP’s problems, but you can make a difference for that child.
We have put together resources and guidance from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Shelter, Crisis and Homeless link to inform our suggestions for how to support children and families experiencing homelessness or difficulties with housing.
What is homelessness?
According to Crisis, someone will be termed as ‘homeless’ if they don’t have ‘a place to live that is supportive, affordable, decent and secure’.
- One of the most dangerous types of homelessness
- The most visible
- Likely to experience trauma, mental health issues and substance misuse
- Group that meet the criteria that Local Authorities have a duty to provide housing for
- Lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay
- Must meet a strict criteria. Some Local Authorities provide temporary accommodation for those who might meet their criteria, and this is mainly families with children.
- Usually not counted in official statistics as they do not approach the council for help
- Can be living in hostels, B&B’s, squats, overcrowded accommodation or ‘concealed' housing, such as people who are sleeping on the sofa or floor of a house.
Risk of homelessness
- People who are more likely to experience homelessness
- Low paid jobs
- Living in poverty
- Poor quality or insecure housing
How will this affect families and children
According to the Anna Freud Center, it is important to not make assumptions about families ability to provide the care and secure environment their children need, however because of stress and uncertainty it can be more difficult for them to provide for the immediate wellbeing of their children.
How schools and education professionals can help
We have arranged this information based on the findings from the Homeless Link Research Team’s study on youth homelessness experiences. They identified 5 themes from their research project into the experiences of youth who have experienced homelessness. Those themes were confidence, choice, community, consistency and control. We have used suggestions from homeless link, along with guidance from shelter, crisis and the Anna Freud center to inform this advice.
Facilitate successful experiences for new students. Help children take an active role in their life and foster a sense of empowerment by giving the child responsibilities. For example, make the child a helper in class, encourage them to help others with activities they are good at.
Give choices when possible, to account for the loss of control they have experienced. Based on the Shelter guidance, if money is required for a trip or special supplies, it is important that staff assess and plan for any possible barriers for the student, and school leadership should think about using school funds to allow pupils to take part in activities. This would mean that they do not miss important educational opportunities outside of the classroom, nor are they excluded further from their peers.
According to the Anna Freud Center, Homeless families can be ‘marginalized by society, and they might face structural barriers to accessing services’. In order to support basic need pastoral staff members can assist parents in arranging transportation to and from school if necessary and help them apply for free school meals.
Shelter found that positive experiences of school for the homeless students interviewed, included their teacher finding them a friend (for those having to move schools because of relocation). A buddy system for new students who arrive to school could be helpful, though it is important to consider the child's right to confidentiality regarding their current living situation.
Provide structure and a daily routine with clear rules. Plan if possible to inform students about any foreseen changes from routine, for example if you know there is a change in activity or teacher absences. This will promote a feeling of safety and build trust.
Avoid online assignments requiring computer access or WIFI. Plan assignments so children can keep up without having to take work home. Avoid taking away outdoor playtime or PE class as a consequence, as this might be their only opportunity to play outside in a safe environment.