ACMS Foundation Feature: Homeless Children’s Education Fund

HCEF Helps Students Experiencing Homelessness Soar with Post-Secondary Education Scholarships

Author: Kesa Ahomana, Development Manager

Founded in 1999, the mission of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Southwestern PA, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens.

Any child, youth, or young adult who is or has experienced homelessness is eligible for HCEF services. Most students reside in the Greater Pittsburgh region, but HCEF has the capacity to serve those in surrounding counties on a case-by-case basis. Our continuum of care model is expertly designed to address education needs that specifically arise from housing instability and help children and youth successfully graduate high school, gain social-emotional

According to the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, youth are considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes children and youth in emergency shelters and transitional housing facilities, as well as staying doubled-up with relatives, in motels or abandoned buildings, on the street, and in other temporary, high-risk situations. In the 2022-2023 school year, approximately 3,122 Allegheny County students were identified as having housing instability. Staff and leadership believe this number to be a gross underestimation, as families experiencing homelessness continue to be difficult to capture and quantify.

In 2023, 83% of HCEF’s students identified as non-white, with more than half of these students having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). HCEF works diligently with local schools and youth-focused community partners to ensure housing instability does not impede their ability to receive a quality education. Research suggests with each move, students experiencing homelessness can academically regress up to 6 months. And HCEF students are known to move numerous times a year.

For over a decade, Homeless Children’s Education Fund has offered the Hope Through Learning Award (HTLA), a $2,500 scholarship offered to teens and young adults pursuing a post-secondary education. Awardees may use these funds on any school-related or living expense, such as transportation, childcare, housing, or tuition. Many times, when a young adult is given a scholarship or financial aid, it is distributed to the institution, and the student does not have direct access to these funds. The Hope Through Learning Award program upholds trust and transparency with HCEF’s students by giving power back to the awardees and allowing them to use these funds in any way they need to succeed.

Another exciting feature about the HTLA program is it allows students to return for consideration again and again, as long as they are still pursuing their post-secondary goals. Students have been known to return year after year for these funds. And we love to see how they’ve grown as they continue to achieve their education and career goals!

In 2023, we disseminated $37,800 in HTLA awards to 15 worthy scholars! And now, with the generosity and support of the Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation, the organization is projected to serve another 20 Awardees in the summer of 2024.

The Hope Through Learning Award Ceremony is scheduled to occur in July 2024. If you are interested in supporting these inspiring young adults, please contact Kesa Ahomana, Development Manager, at [email protected]. And look out for a formal invitation to the HTLA Ceremony by subscribing to our email updates, which you can do by visiting

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund is always looking for caring and compassionate volunteers. Have an afternoon free during your week? Students at one of our partnering agencies would love to hang out with you! Visit to learn more.