The McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of “homeless children and youths” provides the following general framework: individuals who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.  The law then lists several situations which fit within that framework. This list is not inclusive; rather, it is meant to address some of the more common situations of homelessness. Migrant children who are living in one of the described situations are also considered homeless under the Act.

It is important to emphasize that determining whether a particular child or youth fits the definition of homeless is a case-specific inquiry. General answers base on incomplete information or hypothetical situations will often be legally incorrect.

Homeless are:
Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;
Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
Abandoned in hospitals; or
Awaiting foster care placement
Residing at a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
Living in a car, park, public space, abandoned building, substandard housing, train station, or similar setting.
As a result of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake etc.