Youth experiencing homelessness face a number of significant barriers to their education, including a lack of adequate transportation to their school of origin, loss of records, lack of access to healthcare, and an inability to meet residency requirements. To help address these barriers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development introduced the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act in 2010. The HEARTH Act included new definitions of homelessness, a greater emphasis on prevention of homelessness, and new provisions regarding educational services to children. Specifically, the act required that service providers designate an education coordinator to address the needs of youth experiencing homelessness. In the wake of this new law, providers needed assistance implementing the federal requirements.
Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Esther Cajuste worked with Project HOME to identify processes and resources to help providers meet these new federal requirements. She conducted a comprehensive review of applicable laws, regulations, and policies and interviewed and collected data on families, providers, and other experts in the field. Esther developed a white paper proposing policy and practice guidelines that supportive housing providers could utilize to comply with the HEARTH Act’s educational services provisions. In addition, she created a resource guide of programs and supports in Philadelphia that families and providers can use to address the educational barriers faced by homeless youth.