Today’s Read: The School Where Nearly Half of Pupils Are Homeless

Children are the often-hidden victims of New York City’s homelessness crisis, with more than 23,000 boys and girls bedding down in shelters each night. Research shows that, compared to their housed peers, homeless children are more likely to fall behind in school and grapple with health, developmental and behavioral issues.

The instability of homelessness makes it a struggle for children to even get past the school door: Homeless children are far more likely to repeat grades and miss school than their housed classmates. According to the Department of Homeless Services, homeless students have an average school attendance rate of 84 percent, which translates to nearly a month of absences. This is exacerbated by longstanding City policies – such as the requirement that children be present at shelter intake interviews – that the Coalition has vocally opposed.

School administrators and teachers are often on the frontlines in addressing these significant barriers to student success. Elizabeth A. Harris of The New York Times profiled Public School 188 on the Lower East Side, where a staggering 47 percent of students were homeless last year, either living in shelters or doubled up.

The staff at this school have risen to the challenge, despite limited resources, by offering these vulnerable boys and girls a great deal of support both inside and outside the classroom – but the burden should not fall solely on their shoulders. The de Blasio administration made a laudable and vital commitment in April to spend $30 million to address the needs of homeless students citywide, but at the end of the day the best way to help these children is to focus on housing-based solutions that can rescue them from the trauma of homelessness for good.

From The New York Times:

By the New York City Education Department’s count, 82,514 children in the city’s public schools were either in shelters, temporarily staying with relatives or family friends, or in some other makeshift living situation at some point during the last school year. There are about that many students in the entire public school system of Austin, Tex.

At 46 New York City schools, at least a third of all students were homeless in the fall of the last school year.

That figure includes families living in the shelter system, as well as those who have told the Education Department that they were “doubled up,” meaning that a family was living with another family, a description that encompasses enormous variation. Parents might check that box if they had lost their apartment and moved in with a cousin and her husband who had a little extra space and a foldout couch.

In many instances, however, clutches of children and adults are crammed together in tiny apartments for months, even years. That kind of crowding makes it difficult, maybe impossible, to get a good night’s sleep, to discipline a child or to concentrate on homework.