Giving New York City’s 114,000 Homeless Children a Better Shot in School


August 7, 2020

As thousands of demonstrators march through the streets of New York City calling for an end to police brutality and equality of opportunity for people of color, and we are on the verge of sending our children back to school of some kind, it is time that we focus on the most vulnerable people of color, and that is homeless children.

The organization Advocates For Children estimates that there are 114,000 homeless students in the New York City school system and that 85% are Black or Hispanic. This figure includes children not only living in shelters but also those that live doubled up with family or friends. These students perform significantly lower on state tests and only 57% graduate from high school, compared to 76% of all city students who are not homeless.

If we are going to make a difference in the way people of color are treated and accomplish economic security, it is essential that major efforts be put forward to lift these currently homeless children, improve their stations, and greatly increase their rate of high school graduation.

In the homeless shelter system we have approximately 11,000 families with children. On a relatively positive note this figure is down by 1,000 from the same time last year but still very high. However, we still have 20,000 children living in the shelter system. It is time we make a critical element of the evaluation of the work of the New York City Department of Homeless Services that children in their shelters and hotels show improved performance in school.

In order to understand the larger circumstances that these children and their parents live in, we must look at their environment. Typically a homeless family lives in a shelter unit or hotel room that is the equivalent of a small studio apartment. There are bunk beds for the kid(s) and a bed for the parent(s). Of homeless families, 80% are headed by a single adult female. There is a small kitchen area and a table and chairs to eat on and a bathroom. However, those families residing in hotels, at a cost of roughly $200 a night, often do not have a kitchen and depend on food deliveries three times a day.


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