Stacey Havlik, Villanova University – Homeless Students

Homeless students may be hiding in plain sight.

Stacey Havlik, assistant professor in the department of education and counseling at Villanova University, explores how schools can support such students in their time of need.

Stacey A.  Havlik, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in Villanova University’s Department of Education and Counseling. Her primary areas of expertise include school counseling, homeless children and youths, as well as  first-generation college students. As a former middle school counselor she has lived experience in understanding the challenges both homeless students and the school counselors that support them face. Her research focuses on the dilemmas these two groups confront in working together to access equitable educational services including college and career counseling.

Homeless Students


1.2 million students are experiencing homelessness while enrolled in school from Kindergarten through grade 12.  As such homelessness is a pervasive issue that impacts schools across the country. Schools must, therefore, be prepared to address the barriers faced by this population of students. This begins by establishing a firm understanding of the definitions of homelessness and the remedies required under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. It also necessitates public recognition of the need to support and strengthen the role of school counselors as first line of defense advocates for homeless students.

McKinney-Vento was written to remove the barriers faced by students experiencing homelessness related to their success, enrollment, and attendance in school. It defines homeless individuals as those who lack a fixed and regular nighttime residence and includes those who are living with others due to a loss of housing, or those living in shelters or locations such as motels, trailer parks, or campgrounds because they lack alternate housing.

The impact of homelessness varies greatly depending on students’ circumstances. However, generally speaking, students experiencing homelessness face higher levels of emotional distress, challenges in attending school, difficulty maintaining friendships while at school, a lack of necessary privacy, and limited access to basic needs such as food, clothing, and safe shelter.

McKinney-Vento attempts to address the issues faced by students experiencing homelessness by supporting their consistent attendance, through allowing them to enroll in school immediately without required paperwork and requiring that students have transportation to their current school, even if they move out of the district. It also makes funding available for additional supportive programming.

Through a collaborative approach, school personnel can support students’ academic and emotional needs. By partnering with community agencies and developing programming such as tutoring or mentoring, providing short-term counseling, and tailored academic advisement, schools can provide an environment that nurtures the success of students experiencing homelessness.

Read More:
College and Career Counseling for
Students Experiencing Homelessness:
Promising Practices for Secondary
School Counselors

Havlik , Stacey, Villanova — Homeless Student Research Study