How School Facilities can Support the Challenges of Student Homelessness


North Tower - 1st Floor Garden 4

  • Primary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning
  • AIA CEU: 1.0 LU HSW
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities


In the midst of the housing crisis in California, the number of homeless children continues to rise. Currently, there are more than 202,300 homeless youth in the state, which equates to a 20% increase since 2014. This represents almost 4% of California’s school population in general. In 2018, there were approximately 20,000 homeless students In the Los Angeles Unified School District; that’s a 50% increase from the previous year. Schools need to be aware of the needs of homeless students, and how to support learning for kids with the social and emotional “baggage” that they often carry with them. It is common for these kids to exhibit introverted behaviors. Shelter children often change schools or school districts frequently, as a result of moving to a new shelter when their time in their previous facility is up, or because they are fleeing from abusive parents, or living with parents who are struggling with mental health issues. It is difficult for them to want to socialize and make friends knowing that they may have to move again. The physical school environment is very important for homeless students, and is often where they find stability and structure in their lives. Children living in shelters may rely on school facilities to provide a place to do homework, a place to shower, a place for clean laundry, a place to meet with social services, or even a place to receive basic medical care. In many cases, educators and school administrators serve as a homeless student’s first line of defense. This session will explore the some of the common needs of homeless students, and how a school facility can not only help mitigate some of these needs, but serve as a safe environment that encourages and motivates homeless students to succeed.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Attendees will gain an understanding of the needs of homeless students

OBJ #2  Attendees will explore ways to address the challenges homeless students face

OBJ #3  Attendees will learn how the school environment can provide solutions to these challenges, engage and motivate homeless students

OBJ #4  Attendees will obtain resources and information that they can use to start the conversation about student homelessness in their own districts

Kaylee & Christina Hayward,

Elida Sanchez, Social Service Specialist, Santa Ana Unified School District

Letisia Alvarado, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; Lead Counselor, Los Angeles Unified School District

Helena Jubany, Principal, NAC Architecture