Yes, you can still apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) if you are homeless or self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless.
When filling out the FAFSA®, you will be asked this specific question, including whether you are “unaccompanied,” meaning you are not with your parents. You simply answer the question and continue with the FAFSA®.
Proof of Homelessness
Do I need to prove I am homeless?
As a homeless college student seeking financial aid, your school’s financial aid department might contact you to request documented proof that you are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or “unaccompanied” youth by a parent or guardian.
How do I prove that I’m homeless?
There are a few ways to get proof, including contacting your high school, the director of your “runaway” or homeless youth center, the director of your transitional living program, or the director of the emergency shelter you’ve been living in. You might be required to receive program support before a director will vouch for you, however, so check with your shelter for more information.
Once you have obtained the proper documentation, which may come in the form of a letter, submit it to the school per its instructions. In some cases, this might mean arranging for your high school administrator or homeless program director to submit the documents on your behalf.
What happens if I can’t provide proof?
If you cannot obtain documentation from your high school, homeless shelter, or homeless youth program, you will need to work with the financial aid department at your college to help them make a decision regarding your homeless youth determination. Every school varies, but you might be able to request proof from your high school’s personnel, such as a teacher or guidance counselor.
Other sources who can vouch for your homeless status might include mental health professionals, clergy members, physicians, mentors, social workers, staff from college access programs, the National Center for Homeless Education, state homeless education coordinators, or third-party homeless service providers.
The financial aid department will need to determine your homeless status or risk based on any information available to them, so the more proof you can provide, the better. This doesn’t necessarily mean not having proof will disqualify you from receiving aid, but this proof will make it a lot easier to qualify.
For the sake of having documentation of your situation, consider reaching out to a homeless shelter or getting in touch with a social worker or another relevant party before applying for financial aid. This allows you to establish a relationship with a helpful source before you need them to submit documentation for you.
Do I need to provide a home address on the FAFSA®?
No, students claiming homeless on FAFSA® are not required to provide home addresses, but you will need to provide a mailing address where you can receive mail.
This address should be reliable, such as a family member’s house, a friend’s house, a P.O. Box, or a homeless shelter, and you should check it often. Just be sure to get permission from a friend or relative before using their mailing address.
In the event that you find permanent housing, simply update the address on your FAFSA®.
For homeless students who are currently enrolled in college and looking to fill out the FAFSA® for the next school year, using your college mailing address is acceptable. Just be sure you have access to it over the summer.
What if I can’t provide my parents’ income information on the FAFSA®?
That’s perfectly fine. If you state on the FAFSA® that you are homeless, you can submit the application without including information related to your parents’ income. Stating “yes” to the homeless question indicates that you are not with your parents, making you an independent student with special circumstances.
Additional Resources for Homeless Students
If you’re a homeless youth applying to college, it’s important to know that help is available. The U.S. Department of Education has published an online guide for youth in the foster system who are transitioning to adulthood. It also provides helpful information for homeless youth who have never been in foster care.
Other resources include:
- The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE)
- The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY)
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Regardless of your living situation, you have options. Don’t let homelessness deter you from pursuing higher education.