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This year, we’ve reformed the Index to focus on unhoused youth and young adults (YYA), aligning it with their experiences and policy needs. Shifting from harm reduction to transformative change, some jurisdictions may see lower scores than before. This is a deliberate strategy, not a setback. Lower scores should motivate, not discourage, jurisdictions. They present an opportunity to adopt policies that effectively tackle and prevent youth homelessness, fostering meaningful progress.

Fifth Year of High School for Unhoused Students

  • Education

The jurisdiction gives unhoused students the right to a fifth year in high school to complete graduation requirements

Laws that protect unhoused students and improve their graduation rates can have a lasting effect in preventing homelessness and poverty later on. Laws relating to credit accrual, graduation standards, and extending access to high school beyond four years can provide the flexible unhoused youth need to graduate. Also, some jurisdictions have laws that allow school districts to provide financial assistance to students at risk of homelessness. This assistance can be for utility bills, past due rent, and security deposits, as well as other indirect housing supports – all essential to keeping young people in school and focused on learning.

Key Metric Score Type of Policy Description
1.5 Transformative Edge Unhoused students have the right to a fifth year in high school to complete graduation requirements
1.0 Reform Unhoused students may be allowed to access a fifth year in high school in some circumstances
0.0 Status Quo No law found
No Data No Data No Data

Cite: National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United. ", Fifth Year of High School for Unhoused Students" Accessed: July 13, 2024.


Access to formal education is crucial for unhoused young people for a number of reasons. Education is often a gateway to essential services, secure housing, and stable finances. Education can provide critical thinking and other skill sets that are necessary, both personally and professionally, for adulthood. Education can provide a sense of purpose and belonging, which is important for unhoused young people who are isolated or disconnected from society, including care providers and their peers.

“What I needed most was a clean space (uncluttered), a place to eat meals, transportation to and from school and activities. I did not have places to study. I have always been a high achieving student without the physical and mental space to fully feel safe and supported.”– Makayla Dawkins

Model Statute:

These maps are provided as legal information only and should not be used as legal advice for your specific situation. If you need help with any of the issues described on this website, please check out the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN) directory OR email or call HYLN for help finding a referral to a lawyer.