Today’s Read: New York City Had 114,000 Homeless Students Last Year

One of every 10 New York City public school students was homeless during the 2018-2019 school year. New data released by Advocates for Children of New York show that 114,085 NYC students lived in shelters or doubled-up with family or friends, a number virtually unchanged since the prior year’s grim record. Homeless children often struggle to keep up with their stably housed classmates as they grapple with challenges such as long commutes to school and shelter transfers as well as too many missed school days. The constant stress of homelessness is also associated with greater behavioral and academic difficulties, which have lasting ramifications.

The Coalition operates programs specifically designed to support homeless children, and we host an annual Project: Back to School supply drive for the record number of homeless students. We also collaborated with Advocates for Children and others to successfully campaign for an increase in the number of “Bridging the Gap” school-based social workers and other supports for homeless students. At the same time, we continue to advocate for more permanent housing  so that families can move out of shelters and into homes of their own. Many homeless students have participated in the House Our Future NY campaign, which for nearly two years has urged Mayor de Blasio to align his housing plan with the reality of record homelessness by setting aside 30,000 apartments in his 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan for homeless New Yorkers, with 24,000 of those apartments to be created through new construction. Despite repeated calls from homeless children, along with a growing chorus of other concerned New Yorkers and dozens of elected officials, Mayor de Blasio has obstinately rejected this commonsense and feasible strategy to address the root cause of record homelessness.

Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier said the new report underscores the urgent need for more housing to combat homelessness:

“Today’s homeless student statistics are another stark reminder that homelessness remains at all-time record levels and that Mayor de Blasio’s housing policies are failing a generation of our kids. The Mayor boasts about creating a record number of affordable housing units, but far too few of those apartments go to the families being forced out of the housing market and into homelessness. Until he uses every available tool to help our homeless neighbors, the Mayor is needlessly condemning thousands of children to the long-lasting trauma of dislocation that we know impacts their mental health as well as their ability to learn and succeed for years to come.”

Leslie Brody wrote about the new data for The Wall Street Journal:

City district and charter schools had 114,085 students without their own homes at some point last year, topping 100,000 for the fourth year in a row, according to state data released in a report Monday from Advocates for Children of New York, a nonprofit seeking better services for the disadvantaged.

Most children were black or Hispanic, and living “doubled up” with friends, relatives or others. But more than 34,000 slept in city shelters at some point, a number larger than the entire enrollment of many districts, such as Buffalo, Rochester or Yonkers.

Educators say homelessness often aggravates the hardships of poverty, with children shuffled among living situations losing class time, facing inconsistent curricula and missing remedial services.

About 29% of New York City’s homeless children passed state tests in reading last spring, compared with 49% of other city students, according to the nonprofit’s analysis. It said similar disparities persisted in math, and only 57% of homeless students graduated high school.

Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, said the number of city students who experienced homelessness last year could fill the Barclays Center, a Brooklyn sports arena, six times.

“The city won’t be able to break the cycle of homelessness until we address the dismal educational outcomes for students who are homeless,” she said.

One In 10 NYC Students Still Homeless As Crisis Persists

NEW YORK — The last school year was the fourth straight in which New York City’s public schools taught more than 100,000 homeless students, according to new data that shows a continuing crisis in the five boroughs.

About one in 10, or 114,085, of the city’s district and charter school students were identified as homeless in the 2018-19 school year — enough to fill the Barclays Center arena six times over, according to figures the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students released Monday.

The “stubbornly high” total reflects a more than 70 percent increase in student homelessness over the last decade even though the school system’s homeless population shrank by about 600 kids compared to the prior year, says Advocates for Children of New York, the nonprofit that runs the center.

De Blasio Again Brushes Aside Calls for Change to Homeless Housing Approach

Mayor Bill de Blasio brushed aside calls for more affordable housing to tackle homelessness Thursday, saying offering people on the street a place to live would not solve the problem.

Activists have been pressing for a plan that would set aside more subsidized apartments for the homeless, calls that intensified after the recent murders of four homeless men in Chinatown.

“We have to have an honest conversation about folks who are on the street and are homeless,” de Blasio told reporters when asked about the push Thursday. “The folks on the street often are very resistant. There’s a reason they’re on the street.”

Homeless housing activists have argued that permanent housing is more critical than homeless shelters, which many people living on the street shun because they say they’re unsafe.

They have called on the de Blasio administration to include 24,000 new apartments for homeless New Yorkers in the city’s housing plan, and pushed for a City Council bill that would mandate 15 percent of the apartments be set aside for the homeless in all city-subsidized housing developments.

But de Blasio said mental illness and substance abuse, rather than a lack of housing, is driving the street homelessness crisis.

“If it was simply, hey, we have a place for you to stay — we have that right now. They’re offered it all the time,” he said Thursday.

“We’ve got people on the street who are contacted hundreds of times, being offered help who will not accept it,” he said. “So for anyone, even well-intentioned, who says ‘oh if we just had housing that would solve street homelessness’ —  no. That’s not the truth. Most street homelessness is about mental health and substance abuse challenges. That’s what we have to solve first, before we can even get people into housing.”

Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless said it’s the mayor who’s off base.

“It’s shocking how little this mayor knows about homelessness after nearly six years in office,” she said in emailed comments. “If Mayor de Blasio actually spoke to a homeless person on the street, he would know that no one would choose the streets over housing.”

“He continues to perpetuate a harmful stereotype of homeless people instead of reckoning with the fact that his own policies are insufficient, and he doesn’t have the political guts to build housing for homeless New Yorkers,” she added.

Paulette Soltani of Vocal-New York concurred.

“Everything about this statement is wrong, out of touch, and misinformed,” she said, adding de Blasio should talk to homeless New Yorkers about what they need to tackle their mental health and substance abuse problems. “The answer will be housing.”

This piece was originally published on PoliticoPro New York.

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