Homeless Education Network


The Homeless Education Network (HEN) is an alliance of community members working to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

The HEN plans events that bring together diverse stakeholders for mutual learning, resource-sharing, and advocacy to reduce the educational inequities caused by homelessness. We look at issues affecting youth of all ages –  from 0 to 24 –  as well as their parents, schools, and communities.

The HEN is independently managed by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, which receives support from local foundations and the participation of over 200 regional stakeholders.

Advocacy Corner

(PA) Support “Fostering Graduation Success for Vulnerable Students,” S.B. 662

According to Education Law Center, this bill supports students experiencing education disruptions by ensuring access to timely graduation and the full range of educational opportunities. It does so through helping youth experiencing education disruptions (especially homeless youth) achieve school success supports through graduation planning, credit transfer requirements, and targeted educational supports. The bill’s objectives would add a point of contact to assist students transitioning into a new school, create a graduation plan for high school students, promote equal access to education (allowing students to participate in extra-curriculars and specialized programs even if they start late), facilitate a timely transfer of school records within two days of enrollment, and provide makeup and diploma options to help students graduate on time. HCEF encourages you to call your representatives to sign on as co-sponsors to the bill. 

(Federal) Support the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

The Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (EHCY) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs are the only federal programs that specifically attempt to support children and youth experiencing homelessness. 

The current Presidential budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 would consolidate 29 different programs, including EHCY and RHYA, into a single block grant, eliminating funding requirements for any specific programs. This means that under this proposal, there is no federal money guaranteed to support the education of youth experiencing homelessness. 

Congress can still change the budget to guarantee funding for these necessary programs. Please take a moment to call or send a letter to the Senator and House representative representing your district asking them to support the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

Since 2009, the network has attracted an increasingly diverse and action-oriented group of participants, including school districts, homeless service providers, government agencies (federal, state, and local), law enforcement officials, early childhood educators, advocacy groups, ministerium, and many different non-profit organizations. 

The network is focused on Allegheny County, but organizations from surrounding areas are welcome to participate.

The Homeless Education Network plans events that help participants to more effectively understand, identify, and address the educational needs of the homeless youth and families they directly serve, including:

  • Updating members on key policy, legislative, and funding issues that impact homeless youth
  • Sharing new research, data, and best practices in the field of homeless education
  • Linking diverse stakeholders through purposeful discussions around topics of shared concern (ex: school social workers interfacing with police officers around issues of truancy)
  • Increasing members’ awareness of local resources to support their clients
  • Supporting members in the development of collaborative projects and initiatives

Most of these objectives are met through quarterly network meetings and the annual Summit. Participants are surveyed regularly by HCEF staff to identify topics of interest and training needs. The HEN occasionally hosts special trainings and presentations at the request of its members.

HCEF currently looks at the following indicators to measure the success of the HEN:

  • Value to Members: Members’ perceptions of the HEN’s impact on their knowledge base and professional competency
  • Membership Base: Ability of HEN to expand and diversify its membership as well as retaining members over time
  • Visibility: Ability of HEN to generate media coverage that raises the profile of homeless youth and their educational concerns
  • Impact on Policy: Ability of HEN to directly influence legislation and public policy that positively impacts children and youth experiencing homelessness

For the most recent report on HEN outcomes, please click here.

The Homeless Education Network has its roots in a 2009 research report conducted by Dr. Peter Miller and Dr. James Schreiber, both associate professors in the Duquesne University School of Education. The report investigated educational conditions and outcomes of homeless students in Allegheny County through surveys and focus groups with 150 parents and 40 staff members at 15 homeless housing agencies.  Almost unanimously, the parents and staff members talked about a need for stronger connections among homeless families, schools, and community agencies.

HCEF responded to that call. HCEF secured seed funding from The Pittsburgh Foundation to hold a community summit to generate members. Since then, the network has continued to grow steadily, with promising results.

Please check out the HCEF calendar for upcoming HEN meetings and events.

To recommend a topic or speaker for a future HEN meeting, or to inquire about making a presentation, please contact HCEF’s Manager of Community Engagement.