Students in Transition Empowerment Program

About STEP

Students in Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) is a program administered by Traverse City Area Public Schools that provides free supportive, education-related services to students, ages 3-20, who lack fixed, regular and adequate housing. STEP ensures the educational rights of families and youth as required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The STEP program works with eligible students who have lost permanent housing due to foreclosure, eviction, or reasons related to economic hardship to locate and coordinate available services based on each student’s individual needs. The goal of the program is to ensure school stability, remove barriers to full participation in their education, and support academic achievement while children are in residential transition.

Who is Eligible for STEP Services?

STEP serves students ages 3 – 20 in all schools throughout the school district. The STEP program works behind the scenes helping students to remain in their current school, maintaining school stability, as often as possible and when it is in the best interest of the child.

Any student who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate overnight residence (at any time during the school year) is eligible to receive STEP services. Students may be found living in the following situations:

  • In a shelter, motel, vehicle, camper, or campground
  • Temporarily sharing the housing of friends or family (“doubled-up”) due to economic hardship
  • Unaccompanied youth living on their own, without a parent or guardian
  • Inadequate accommodations (lack of electricity, heat, plumbing, or overcrowding)
  • Abandoned buildings, or on the street
  • Students who are couch surfing, staying with friends
  • Displaced due to natural disaster or fire

School staff involved in identifying students in transition include the on-site STEP specialist, bus drivers, food service staff, counselors, school social workers, teachers, secretaries, administrators, parents, students, or by word of mouth. Once identified, students can begin receiving the services they need in order to stay in school and obtain the education they need.

STEP Services Available

TCAPS Students in Transition Empowerment Program services include:

  • Support with school choice option
  • School supplies and/or backpacks
  • School transportation via school bus, BATA or gas card
  • School breakfast and lunch at no charge
  • Before and after school program assistance
  • Academic support and tutoring
  • Assistance in obtaining school records, including birth certificates and immunization records
  • College admissions support, registration, FAFSA, scholarships, etc.
  • Clothing for school purposes
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Assistance with obtaining a driver’s license (Roadmap to Success Program)
  • General funds for extracurricular activities or interests
  • Referrals for housing, mental health, counseling, medical, transitional living, resources, job training, work programs, post-secondary education counseling, and training, etc.

Students Share What They Need

  • “Thank you for all the help you have given me. My life is finally getting back on track slowly but surely. I will still probably need help with bathroom supplies.”

  • “In my current situation, I need help with financial education, as well as help with college applications. Thank you for checking in with me.”

  • “I need support. I need someone who won’t give up on me. I need extra help with classes and solid transportation to school.”

  • “I just need to make money and get my stuff done. I want to say thank you for letting me know where I can go when I need assistance.”

  • “What I need to be successful is what you do best—helping people out with personal situations.”

School Rights you may not know you have...We slept in our car last night - i didn't have any dinner last night - we can't afford my school supplies - I miss school some days because I don't have a way to get there

School Rights You May Not Know You Have

If you live in any of the following situations:

  • In a shelter or on the street
  • In a motel or campground
  • In a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station
  • Couch surfing/doubled up with other due to loss of housing, foreclosure, eviction or economic hardship
  • Inadequate living accommodations (i.e. overcrowding, lack of plumbing, heating, or electricity)
  • Youth living on their own, without parent or legal guardian

You may be eligible for services, including:

  • Transportation to school
  • School breakfast or lunch at no charge
  • Free school supplies
  • Academic support and tutoring
  • Help getting school records, including birth certificates and immunization records
  • Referrals for housing, health care and food
  • Referrals for other services

You also have the right to:

  • Enroll in and attend school, no matter where you live or how long you have lived there
  • Continue attending the same school after experiencing loss of housing, or transfer to a new school
  • Receive transportation assistance, if possible
  • Receive school meal programs
  • Receive Title I services

School Rights Posters

Student Resources

Do you have a place to sleep tonight?

External LinkClick here to contact the coordinated entry call center for help


Learn more about the Northwest Michigan Coalition to end youth  homelessness: 

Information for Donors

Follow STEP on Facebook for up to date information, events, current needs, and more.

External LinkFollow STEP on Facebook 

Michigan Annual Report

Michigan's Regional Numbers

As of January 2019, Michigan had an estimated 8,575 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 1,022 were family households, 599 were Veterans, 489 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 950 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2017-2018 school year shows that an estimated 35,193 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 611 students were unsheltered, 5,150 were in shelters, 2,394 were in hotels/motels, and 27,038 were doubled up.

Homelessness Statistics for Michigan

  • Total Homeless Population: 8,575
  • Total Family Households Experiencing Homelessness: 1,022
  • Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: 599
  • Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness: 950
  • Unaccompanied Young Adults (Aged 18-24) Experiencing Homelessness: 489
  • Total Number of Homeless Students: 35,193
  • Total Number of Unaccompanied Homeless Students: 4,842
  • Nighttime Residence: Unsheltered: 611
  • Nighttime Residence: Shelters: 5,150
  • Nighttime Residence: Hotels/Motels: 2,394
  • Nighttime Residence: Doubled Up: 27,038

Some possible signs that a student may be experiencing homelessness are:

  • Irregular attendance and frequent tardiness
  • History of attending many different schools
  • Consistent lack of preparation for class
  • Sleeping in class
  • Hostility and anger or extremes in behavior
  • (e.g., shyness, withdrawal, nervousness, depression)
  • Needy behavior (seeking attention or withdrawn behavior)
  • Poor health/nutrition
  • Inadequate seasonal clothing
  • Poor hygiene and grooming
  • Resistance to parting with personal possessions
  • (e.g., leaving a favorite toy/item unattended or putting a coat in a locker)
  • Multiple families at the same address
  • Difficulty in reaching a parent by phone

In Michigan, adults and children in families account for 52% of the total homeless population. This number may be under reported and not include families who are doubled up or living with friends and relatives due to economic hardship.

PDF DocumentHomeless Children & Youth: Causes and Consequences

Working together to reduce poverty and end homelessness through education.

We would like to pay special attention and give our heartfelt thanks to the following supporters of the STEP program and also to many other working partnerships that we have throughout the greater Grand Traverse Area: Google DocView Our Donors.

STEP Liaison Resources

The Northwest Michigan Students in Transition Empowerment Program (NWM STEP), a consortium of 20 public school districts within the five-county Grand Traverse area, will address the complex needs of students who have been identified as “homeless.” District liaisons improve accountability of eligible students and provide specialized support and advocacy to ensure academic success and a successful transition to adulthood. Contact your local district liaison if you should lose your housing due to foreclosure, eviction, economic hardship, or similar reason or if you know someone who may need assistance.