Homeless D - Teacher Information

Warning signs for teachers to identify children living in homeless situations

  • Children who are hungry and tired.
  • Children who have attended many different schools and whose attendance in the present school may be erratic.
  • Children whose grooming and personal hygiene/clothing may draw negative attention from classmates and teachers.
  • Children who aren't prepared for school, coming in without books and without homework completed.
  • Children who demonstrate a change in behavior often characterized as withdrawal, extreme shyness, nervousness, aggression and/or anger.

Effects of homelessness on educational and social development

  • Several school moves cause children to get behind.
  • Sneak around/lie to cover up from embarrassment.
  • Have to keep making new friends.
  • Kids are teased and fight from anger.
  • Depressed from living conditions.
  • Labeled as troublemakers.
  • Aggressive behavior from feeling bad about themselves.
  • Withdraw in school, don't try.
  • Don't finish things, lack initiative.
  • Poor attendance, tardiness.
  • Frightened about their immediate future.
  • Don't accept discipline well.
  • Vulnerable to getting into trouble for attention and escape.
  • Stressed from family problems.
  • Chronic health problems.

Elmira City School District teachers are asked to watch for these warning signs and tell your school principal about your concerns. The school principal will notify Christine Mecke, director of Pupil Personnel Services and the district's homelessness liaison.


For Students For Teachers
  • Ashamed of where they live (especially if at a shelter)
  • Teased by other students about homelessness, hygiene, inabilities
  • Often feel misunderstood by parents
  • difficulties in adjusting to new school magnified by situation
  • No place to do homework (or quiet place to themselves)
  • Developmental delay augments feelings of failure
  • Students may have lived in many places, attending different schools with different methods
  • No school records
  • Must assess educational needs without prior records input
  • Must do quick assessment of student as formal measures are too time-consuming
  • Knowledge that student will move soon
  • Students may have difficulty trusting
  • Other students may react negatively
  • Inability to contact parents in an emergency
  • parents often emotionally unavailable, too caught up in their own needs
  • Homework can be an issue


  • Provide a stable environment.
  • Provide structure.
  • Allow personal possessions or space and encourage right to them.
  • Expect and unobtrusively monitor regressions.
  • Assign projects that can be broken into small components to ensure at least some success.
  • Allow students to express fears.
  • Allow students to express frustrations and allow opportunities to do so in other ways in addition to verbalizing (e.g., drawing).
  • Make professional help quickly available (e.g., and informed school counselor, social worker, administrator).
  • Be open to students' needs to talk about experiences without prying.
  • Give students opportunities to see some of their experiences in a positive way (e.g., places they have traveled).
  • Don't assume students know how to play. They may have to be taught how to do so.
  • Be well informed about homelessness issues.