Update: Helping Rosa and Other Homeless Students

Our campaign to help Rosa Bracero and thousands of other homeless students has won national attention — and generated hundreds of letters to Mayor Bloomberg urging him to change misguided rules that force homeless kids to miss school and exams.

As we noted in earlier posts, the NYC Department of Homeless Services forced Rosa Bracero, a seventeen-year-old high school student, to miss her final Regents exams because Rosa’s family had become homeless and was applying for shelter — and misguided City rules require homeless children and adults to miss school and work during the grueling shelter application process. To make matters worse, State education bureaucrats refused to score Rosa’s make-up exam, meaning that she won’t actually graduate until June.

Unfortunately, Rosa’s tragic story is not unique.  According to City data, during FY 2009 more than 22,000 school-age homeless children slept in municipal shelters (and more this year), meaning that most of those kids were forced to miss school when their families sought shelter. Even worse, due to the error-ridden application process, many homeless families are wrongly denied shelter and forced to re-apply. City data show that one third of all homeless families ultimately deemed “eligible” for shelter are forced to file multiple applications, meaning the kids in those families missed even more school.

This week Coalition for the Homeless launched an online campaign urging Mayor Bloomberg to change misguided City rules in order to ensure that no homeless child misses a day of school. So far, more than 700 letters with that message have been sent to Mayor Bloomberg, with more on the way.

The Coalition’s campaign has caught on like wildfire. Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann named the State’s top education official that day’s “Worst Person in the World” for refusing to allow Rosa to graduate on time. The Huffington Post also wrote about the campaign. And reporter Meredith Kolodner of the New York Daily News — who first told Rosa’s story — also wrote about the campaign today:

“The homeless student denied a diploma because she missed a mandatory test has sparked a citywide campaign to overhaul the treatment of children in the shelter system.

“The Coalition for the Homeless launched an effort yesterday to change the policy requiring an entire family, including children, to remain at the shelter intake center for six or seven hours while awaiting temporary housing.”

Sadly, Bloomberg administration officials continue to stubbornly defend their policy forcing homeless kids to miss school — a disappointing and dosconcerting stance for someone who has styled himself as the “education mayor.”

So, we urge you to join the campaign. Please write to Mayor Bloomberg on behalf of NYC’s homeless students, and please spread the word!

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