Participants agreed that despite numerous Federal programs that serve homeless children, the system for delivering these services is fragmented. Among the contributing factors that participants identified were differing definitions of homelessness, varying eligibility criteria across these programs, and the episodic nature of family homelessness. There is a need to evaluate promising practices and create evidence-based practices for homeless children. Participants also emphasized the variation and differing needs among homeless children.
Suggestions also included:
- Consider a flexible service system that can serve the varying needs of homeless children and families — from basic needs, to education, to physical and mental health treatment, and safe permanent housing.
- Adopt a more uniform definition of homelessness across Federal agencies to facilitate the coordination of care and access to needed services; adopt a continuum of homelessness approach and fund services and programs along a continuum of needs.
- Simplify enrollment procedures for mainstream programs, following the procedures used by school lunch programs.
- Include homeless (or formerly homeless) children in policy and program decisions.
- Develop standards of care for shelters, which could be tied to McKinney-Vento funds.