Information for Homeless Families

Ensuring that all students have the resources necessary to obtain a successful education.

Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to providing support for our students who are experiencing homelessness. We understand the challenges facing homeless students and have programs in place to make certain that these students have the resources necessary to obtain a successful education.

FCPS has a homeless liaison responsible for ensuring that homeless children are identified, enrolled, and receive equitable access to high quality education and support services. Parents should contact the homeless liaison at 571-423-4332 for assistance.

Anyone, due to a lack of housing, can be considered homeless if he or she lives in inadequate or temporary settings such as: emergency or transitional shelters; motels, hotels, trailer parks, campgrounds, are abandoned in hospitals, or are awaiting foster care placement; cars, parks, public places, bus or train stations, or abandoned buildings; are doubled up with relatives or friends; or those living in these conditions and are migratory children or youth.

What Families Experiencing Homelessness Need to Know

  • Children and youth experiencing homelessness have a right to attend school.
  • You do not need a permanent address to enroll your child in school.
  • Children and youth experiencing homelessness can stay in their original school or enroll in any public school that students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend, according to their best interest. Schools must provide you with a written explanation if a placement dispute occurs, and you may appeal their decision. (Contact the homeless liaison.)
  • Your child cannot be denied school enrollment just because school records or other enrollment documentation are not immediately available. Your child may have the right to transportation services to and from the school of origin, if determined feasible.
  • Your child has the right to participate in extracurricular activities and all federal, state, or local programs for which he or she is eligible. Transportation may not be available for these activities.
  • Homeless, unaccompanied youth have these same rights. (Contact the homeless liaison.)

Contact Information

Kathi Sheffel, FCPS Homeless Liaison, 571-423-4332
Kerri Hutchins, FCPS Social Worker, 571-423-4336
Tami Eppolite, FCPS Social Worker, 571-423-4371
Meghan Crowley, FCPS Social Worker, Spanish Speaker, 571-423-4356
Susan Salvucci, Homeless Educational Support, 571-423-4322
Elizabeth Feaganes, Administrative Assistant, 571-423-4322

Note: Call Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) first for help with emergency housing, health care, financial assistance, and other human service needs at 703-222-0880.

Gift Cards Project

Over 2,300 homeless children are enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools. Would you like to help? The Homeless Liaison Office will create gift bags for the students using the assortment of gift cards provided by donors. Purchase as many gift cards as you like, in any amount. (Be sure to mark the value on the back of the card.) All cards should be sent to Homeless Liaison Office, Gatehouse Administration Center, Room 4738, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, VA 22042. Gift cards from grocery stores, Target, Walmart and Kmart, or other large department stores are suggested.

Prefer to send a monetary donation?  You may donate online or send a check to the Foundation for FCPS, and they will purchase gift cards on your behalf.  Be sure to write Gift Cards Project in your donation notes.  For more information on how to make a monetary donation, please visit the Foundation for FCPS Website.

Free and Reduced Lunch Procedures

Homeless students are entitled to Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch and DO NOT need to fill out the regular application. To obtain meals, please e-mail the student’s name, ID number, and school name to the Homeless Liaison Kathi.Sheffel@fcps.edu. The Homeless Liaison Office will assess the request and if approved process it with Food Services. Please do not contact Food Services directly; the request must be done through the homeless program.

Transportation Procedures

FCPS will provide transportation assistance for homeless students so that the student may remain at his or her school of origin. This transportation is arranged through the homeless liaison’s office and may be by school bus, public transportation, cab, or gas assistance for parents or guardians. It takes three to five working days for transportation arrangements to be put in place. Once transportation is set up the parent and/or guardian is called and advised of the start date and time of the transportation. 

To obtain transportation assistance, please e-mail the following information to Kathi Sheffel at kathi.sheffel@fcps.edu
•    Student’s name and ID# 
•    Name and address of the school that the student will attend 
•    Address where the student is to be picked up 
•    Name and contact number for the parent and/or guardian 
 

Who are "Homeless Unaccompanied Youth"?

Students who meet the homeless definition and

  • They are youth who are not in the physical custody of a parent or legal guardian including: 
    • Young people who have run away from home. 
    • Young people who have been forced to leave their homes. 
  • Their possible living situations include: 
    • Living with friends (couch surfing). 
    • Living in shelters. 
    • Living in cars, at campgrounds, in abandoned buildings or on streets. 

School may be the only safe, stable environment for unaccompanied youth. Schools can provide the needed support to ensure continued academic success for these vulnerable students. In addition to academics, schools can offer adult and peer support, meals, referrals to medical and mental health services, sports, clubs, and other activities. Schools should also connect these young people to other resources and supports available in the community.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in partnership with other Fairfax County departments and agencies offers services and programs for grandparents and other family members raising children in the place of a parent.

How to Get Involved

There are several ways your organization can get involved in helping homeless students and their families. For more information about how to support one of these programs, please contact the Homeless Liaison Office at 571-423-4332.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Weekend Food Backpack Program: Provide non-perishable, kid-friendly foods to be sent home with students identified as having a need for additional food on weekends and during school breaks. Support an existing food pantry. Conduct a food drive to provide healthy snacks for students who are hungry and without a snack for the day.
  • Coats for Kids: Provide financial support to FCPS’ annual coat distribution to ensure students who need a coat receive one. Collect new coats, mittens, hats, and scarves for students who otherwise would go without these essential items.
  • Back-To-School Basics: Conduct a backpack or scientific calculator drive or make a financial contribution to ensure FCPS students start the school year with the supplies they need to succeed.
  • Housing for Homeless Youth: Partner with Alternative House, a local nonprofit organization offering housing assistance to ensure homeless, unaccompanied youth are supported while they attend school and work toward graduation.
  • College-Bound Homeless Youth: Provide support in the form of financial assistance, laptops, and other necessities to support homeless youth as they prepare for higher education.
  • Gift Cards: Donate gift cards that families can use to purchase the items they need the most (groceries, clothing, gas).
  • Holiday Assistance: During the holidays, many families are unable to provide meals and gifts for their children. Adopt a family through a local holiday assistance program.
  • Mentoring and After-School Tutoring: Volunteer in a tutoring program or mentoring program to provide much needed support to children who are homeless or who have been identified as being in need of extra help.
  • Advocacy: Volunteer or participate in a community program or event that supports countywide efforts to prevent and end homelessness.

Additional Resources

Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) - 703-222-0880
CSP provides information, referral, linkage, and advocacy to public and private human services available to Fairfax County residents. Through partnerships with community-based organizations and other Fairfax County agencies, CSP assists callers with the following services: basic needs, financial assistance, health care services, and referrals to services and resources.