For the seventh year in a row, an unacceptably high number of New York City students — more than 100,000 of them all — experienced homelessness.
A study released on Oct. 26 by activist group Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) indicated that although overall enrollment in city schools dropped, approximately 104,000 students in NYC experienced homelessness. That’s a 3.3% increase from last year’s report, which showed about 101,000 homeless students.
According to this year’s report, 29,000 students out of the 104,000 had spent some time in city shelters, while another 69,000 were temporarily housed with others. About 5,500 were fully unsheltered — living in cars, abandoned buildings or parks.
So large is the number of homeless New York City children that, if they were lumped together into one school district, that jurisdiction would be among the largest in the entire United States, according to AFC Executive Director Kim Sweet.
“If these 100,000 children made up their own school district, it would be a district larger than 99.5% of all other districts nationwide,” said Sweet. “While the City works to address the underlying issue of homelessness, we also must ensure that students who are homeless get to class every day and receive the targeted supports they need to succeed in school.”
A high amount of homeless students who attend schools in all five boroughs were concentrated in upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, according to the AFC report.
Not surprisingly, students who experience homelessness are far more likely to have poor academic performances and have high rates of chronic absenteeism, the report found. During the 2020-2021 school year, homeless students were also three times more likely to drop out of school completely; 60% of homeless students graduated in four years, and 64% were chronically absent or missed one of out ten days of school.
According to AFC, some steps to help remedy the student homelessness crisis would be to fill vacancies at the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Students in Temporary Housing.
The organization also called for the hiring of 100 shelter-based DOE staff members (which the department previously promised) to aid student as well as bring in other city agencies to consult issues that students are facing like transportation irregularities, decreased or delayed enrollment and chronic absenteeism.
Additionally, the group said the DOE needs to have a conclusive plan for homeless migrant students who are currently being bused into the city in droves.
“The DOE needs to ensure the new migrant students entering the shelter system are enrolled in schools that can meet their needs, while not losing sight of the longstanding issues facing the tens of thousands of students who were already homeless,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “The new Community Coordinators will be critical for helping students in shelter access a quality education and break the cycle of homelessness. Hiring and training all 100 of these staffers so they can support families on day one, along with filling the open leadership roles within the Students in Temporary Housing team, must be an urgent priority for this administration.”
However, according to a DOE spokesperson, the department is fully committed to aiding and providing for as much as possible to aid homeless students as well as accommodate for the incoming migrant students.
“Our Office of Community Supports and Wellness leads vital work in support of NYC Public Schools students with unique and significant needs, none of which will be disrupted while we navigate a period of transition,” said a DOE spokesperson to amNew York on Wednesday. “It is our on-going priority to provide our students, including students living in Foster Care, Temporary Housing, and Asylum Seekers living in shelters, with the supports and resources they need, when they need them. We are proud to staff a strong team of student and family-service providers across our districts wholly devoted to this work, including 350 staff dedicated to supporting students and families in temporary housing. We have already begun the hiring process for our 100 shelter-based community coordinators and we expect to start onboarding new hires soon.”
amNewYork Metro reached out to City Hall for comment, and is awaiting a response.