Before schools can be certain they are complying with legislation related to educating students experiencing homelessness, they must understand who can be considered homeless. The McKinney-Vento Act (Section 725) defines "homeless children and youth" (school-age and younger) as:
Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth who 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 lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
Living in emergency or transitional shelters.
Abandoned in hospitals
Awaiting foster care placement
Children and youth that have 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.
Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations or similar settings.
Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.
The term unaccompanied youth includes a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. This would include runaways living in runaway shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, on the street or in other inadequate housing; children and youth denied housing by their families (sometimes referred to "throwaway children and youth"); and school-age unwed mothers living in homes for unwed mothers because they have no other housing available.