New Villa law will train school staff on helping homeless students

SPRINGFIELD – Teachers and school staff will be trained to recognize and aid homeless students, thanks to a new law sponsored by State Senator Karina Villa.

“There are thousands of students in Illinois who experienced homelessness in the past few years,” said Villa (D-West Chicago). “This law will allow us to recognize and provide the proper assistance to those students.”

House Bill 3116 requires all school boards to conduct in-service training on homelessness for all school personnel. This training will include how to identify homeless students, knowing the rights of homeless students, and the appropriate referral procedures to aid homeless students. Youth who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence are considered homeless.

An initiative of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, this law seeks to address gaps in identifying and supporting homeless students by ensuring all school personnel receive the training needed to direct homeless youth to support services. Currently, each school district has a designated homeless student liaison, who could have over a thousand students to look after.

“Teachers and staff work with students every day and might notice what liaisons do not. Homelessness for children looks different than what we might think — it could mean the child is bouncing around different family members’ homes, living in a car with their family or staying with friends,” Villa said. “This law will help teachers recognize the signs of a student who needs assistance and give them the tools to do so.”

House Bill 3116 was signed on Friday, June 9 and goes into effect Aug. 20, 2024.