If a student becomes homeless, even temporarily, due to wildfires or another state/federally declared natural disaster, a verbal confirmation of homelessness from a student, or the student’s family, is all that is required for LEAs to certify the student as eligible for free meals based on a homeless designation.

Program operators should work backwards in obtaining the homeless documentation with the Homeless Liaison. After receiving a verbal confirmation of a student’s homelessness, program operators should assure the family that their child is eligible for free meals for the remainder of the school year, and the first 30 operating days of the following year, and then subsequently obtain the necessary documentation for the homeless designation: the school registration form (if applicable) and documentation from the Homeless Liaison.

Operators can obtain a list of their county and district Homeless Liaisons on the California Department of Education’s web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/hs/. This Homeless Liaison contact list can be particularly helpful for new agency staff who may not know who to contact in order to help students who have become homeless.

Also, if a student is residing within another household as a result of a disaster, the student’s homeless eligibility does not transfer to the host family. However, when a household hosting a homeless family applies for free and reduced-price (F/RP) meal benefits for their own children, the host family may include all of the members of the homeless family as household members if the host family provides financial support to the homeless family. Financial support may include shelter, utilities, clothing, and/or food. When applying for F/RP meal benefits, the host family must also include any income received by the homeless family. The eligibility status for the host family is based on its income or other sources of categorical eligibility.

For further assistance on meal eligibility, contact the School Nutrition Programs Unit at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to be directed to a program specialist.