About Us

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1999 to support the educational needs of children experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County. Over the years, HCEF’s role in the community has developed and expanded to meet these needs. HCEF relies on support from community foundations, corporations, and individuals and receives no governmental funding.


The mission of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. As a national model for addressing the educational needs of unstably-housed children and youth, HCEF leads a collaborative effort among regional partners by providing educational programs and services in Allegheny County and advocating for policy and system improvement.

Guiding Principles

We believe that . . .

  • All people have equal intrinsic worth and are deserving of respect.
  • All young people have unique gifts and unlimited potential.
  • Homelessness is a condition, not an identity.
  • Education is a civil right.
  • Education breaks the cycle of poverty and opens the door to opportunities.
  • Quality education and opportunity breed success.
  • Education empowers youth to lead fulfilling lives and positively contribute to society.
  • Parents are critical partners in their children’s education.
  • Positive relationships build understanding and trust.
  • Positive relationships foster hope and resiliency.
  • Hope provides a bridge to the future.
  • Every community is responsible for eliminating homelessness.

Click here to download our 2016 Annual Report.


During the 2014-2015 school year, Allegheny County schools identified 3,000 children and youth who were experiencing homelessness (source: PA Department of Education).  We use that number as a frame of reference, but we know that there are likely more children experiencing homelessness whose status was not determined.

Many of the children we serve at our partnering sites are accompanied by their parents. There is also a population of unaccompanied youth who meet the federal definition of homelessness but are not with parents or guardians.

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. It defines homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”


1)    Lack of affordable housing
2)    Unemployment or low wages
3)    Domestic violence
4)    Substance abuse
5)    Mental health issues
6)    Recent economic recession and home foreclosure crisis
7)    Natural Disasters (i.e. fires, tornados, hurricanes, etc…)

The average stay in a homeless provider agency is 5.7 months, and some surveys say the average is closer to a year (U. S. Conference of Mayors, 2007 and Santos, 2002).

Homelessness is characterized by mobility as well as high rates of poverty, family stress, health problems, and traumatic life events such as domestic violence. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, children experiencing homelessness are:

  • Four times more likely than their peers to show delayed development
  • Twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children
  • Twice as likely as their peers to have emotional disturbances
  • More likely to experience significant educational disruption: Students who change schools due to homelessness typically fall behind academically 4-6 months per change in schools.

Mobility not only disrupts the classroom experience, it can also impede a child’s ability to build stable relationships with caring adults outside the immediate family – a crucial factor in their development at any age.


There are a number of ways that you can be involved with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.  Below we’ve listed a few ways to get involved.  If you have questions, you can always give us a call or shoot us an email! 412-562-0154 or email info@homelessfund.org

  • Volunteer
  • Spread the word
  • Donate
  • Contact us

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