HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera and Pennsylvania's Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program (ECYEH) today urged Pennsylvanians to join them in recognizing November 14th through 18 th as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in Pennsylvania. "Each year, approximately 2 million American children experience a period of homelessness, and nearly 40 percent of the nation's homeless are under age 18," said Sec. Rivera. "Homelessness affects everyone in our communities, and can cause particular difficulties for children as they attempt to earn an education. It's our job as public servants and educators to not just raise awareness of their plight, but extend a helping hand. I invite all Pennsylvanians to join me in doing so." Each year during the week before Thanksgiving, advocates raise awareness for hunger and homelessness, organize community events, and meet with lawmakers to discuss programs and legislation. The event, a national effort, aims to combat hunger and homelessness in communities and increase access to social support services for those who need it. In the commonwealth, Pennsylvania's ECYEH program aims to help homeless youth maintain stability during a period of homelessness. The EYCEH program was developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) in 1988 after the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (now known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001) became law. The program assesses Pennsylvania's homeless children population, develops appropriate responses and establishes McKinney-Vento Homeless sites. During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the EYCEH program will work withlocal school districts to discuss their responsibilities to homeless children and youth, increase awareness about the needs of homeless children, reveal and overcome possible educational barriers, explain current legislation and policies, and provide practical tips for working with homeless children.