On July 26, 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced the creation of Finding Your Way in PA, a Pennsylvania-based mobile and desktop app developed by the Center for Schools and Communities to help connect students and families experiencing homelessness with local services and resources.
“It is critically important that we remove the barriers faced by students experiencing homelessness to help them learn, grow, and thrive continuously and seamlessly, and this new app brings that assistance into the 21st century,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “Through this innovative new resource, Pennsylvanians can access free help 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a mobile phone or a desktop computer. Users without access to these devices are encouraged to visit their local library or community center for help and support.”
While using the app, users can search for and request assistance with services and resources in their current location, local communities, and throughout Pennsylvania to connect them with helpful supports. The app is available on three platforms (Web, Google Play Store & Apple App Store), features a simple design with List and Map View to find & connect to services easily, features a Chatbot that helps users find services, and lists various national crisis hotlines that can provide users with emotional support.
The app’s development was supported through the American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) Program. This program provides children and youth experiencing homelessness with wrap-around services and enables them to attend school and fully participate in school activities. Finding Your Way in PA supports educational stability and strives to foster positive education outcomes so that students and families experiencing housing instability can succeed in school, work, and life. Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness (Pennsylvania ECYEH) Program was established to make sure youth have access to a free and appropriate public education while removing barriers facing children experiencing homelessness. Its goal is to have the educational process continue as uninterrupted as possible while the children are in homeless situations.
Some of the other main objectives of Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program are to inform local school districts of their responsibilities to these children and youth, to increase awareness about their needs, explain current laws and policies, and provide practical tips for working with these children. In this effort, Pennsylvania’s network of eight regional offices ensures that the educational needs of students experiencing homelessness are met.
To learn more about Pennsylvania’s education for children and youth experiencing homelessness initiatives visit https://ecyeh.center-school.org/.