As reported by the New York Times today, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is voicing his concerns on the Mayor's approach to homelessness, saying that the administration's overall attempt to reduce homelessness has failed. De Blasio cited the record shelter population and the increase in homeless families (to a number that includes 16,000 children) as a clear sign that current homeless policies are not working.
"The big mistake, in my view, is the inability to acknowledge that the overall strategy hasn't worked," Mr. de Blasio said. "I've never heard a full acknowledgment of the failure of the strategy, and I don't know how you can make something better if you don't acknowledge that it hasn't worked."
De Blasio offered some suggestions for policy changes to the administration, including increasing access to public housing for homeless families, building and strengthening prevention services, and halting referrals to illegal and unsafe housing.
Also in today's news, the New York Daily News reported a serious increase in the number of homeless children in NYC schools, especially in poor-performing schools that are scheduled to close. In some instances, the number of homeless students has increased by more than 100 percent over the past year.
"The increase swamped social workers and left principals scrambling for after-school funding to give kids a place to go after classes ended, teachers and administrators say....
'The school takes on even more of a family role for the child, encouraging them to keep going,' said student affairs coordinator Stefanie Siegel. 'Academic success can be hard to keep on the front of the table because you're just trying to keep the students stable.'"
Stability is elusive for homeless children, affecting their ability to perform well in school and live up to their full potential. In the coming months, we look forward to working with Public Advocate de Blasio in pushing for real changes in homeless policy and striving to give New York's homeless children a better chance at life.
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