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.


The mission of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Southwestern PA, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. 

children and youth were identified as experiencing homelessness by their Allegheny County school districts in the 2022-23 school year.

Guiding Principles

We believe that . . .

  • All people have intrinsic value, unique gifts, and deserve respect.
  • Homelessness is a condition, not an identity.
  • Quality education is a civil right, which breaks the cycle of poverty and empowers youth to lead fulfilling lives.
  • Parents and families are critical partners in their children’s education.
  • Every community is responsible for eliminating homelessness.


1. To help community members understand and accept responsibility for homeless children, youth, and families.
2. To deliver educational programs and support services to children, youth, and families who are unstably housed.
3. To connect unstably housed children, youth, and families with supports and resources to remove barriers to educational advancement.
4. To advocate for policies and systems that will improve outcomes for homeless children, youth, and families.
5. To develop and continually evaluate our operational systems to ensure effective and efficient deployment of HCEF’s resources.
6. To attract, cultivate, and nurture donor partnerships and identify opportunities to fulfill our mission.

During the 2022-23 school year, Allegheny County schools identified 3,122 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.” In Pennsylvania, 64% of homeless students lived doubled-up (temporary sharing residence with others) in the 2016-17 school year; 29% were in shelters, transitional housing, or awaiting foster care placement; 6% were in hotels/motels; and 1% was unsheltered (source: PA Department of Education).

There are a number of reasons families and individuals may lose housing, many of which are unfortunate circumstances outside of their control. Some include: 

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Unemployment or low wages
  • Domestic violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental or physical health issues
  • Natural disasters (i.e. fires, tornadoes, 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: