NYC funds additional staff to support homeless students

NYC funds additional staff to support homeless students

(N.Y.) New York City will hire 100 additional community coordinators to help schools better serve the record number of homeless students, including those living in temporary housing.

More than 114,000 New York City students were identified as homeless during the 2017-18 school year, according to New York City Department of Education data. And about 105,000 students resided in temporary housing at some point during that time, which can mean they were living with a friend or family member, in a shelter, in a motel or in some other temporary living situation.

The new community coordinators will, among other things, connect families to city case-workers and shelter-based education assistants to improve coordination between schools and shelters. They will also work to streamline access to school-based services, including guidance counselors, social workers and bussing.

“All New York City children deserve access to high-quality education—and for families experiencing homelessness or living in temporary housing, that means preserving as much stability as possible during challenging times,” Steven Banks, the city’s commissioner of social services, said in a statement. “This increased investment from the Department of Education will help provide additional support to families experiencing housing instability, including the subset of those students that are experiencing homelessness and residing in shelter, in order to re-stabilize their lives.”

Research has linked youth homelessness to higher rates of severe anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and self-harm, post-traumatic stress syndrome, substance abuse and criminal activity. Homeless children are more likely not only to commit crimes than their peers, but also be the victims of crime. Students without stable housing are also more likely to score lower on standardized tests, drop out of school and have higher rates of chronic absenteeism.

In 2016-17, $10.3 million was earmarked for New York City students in temporary housing. The program grew to $16 million for the 2018-19 school year.

As part of last week’s staffing announcement, schools chancellor Richard Carranza said there would be an additional $12 million investment to support students in temporary housing, bringing the annual total investment in these programs to $28 million. Aside from funding 100 school-based community coordinators, the money will also go toward expanding professional development to staff supporting homeless youth and improving oversight of resources for students in temporary housing.

Carranza said the new investments would be used to improve school admissions support in shelters and school-based health services at schools with high homeless populations, and double the number of Afterschool Reading Clubs, which provide reading enrichment and homework help three days a week to students in grades K-5 at Department of Homeless Services shelters.

Schools will be identified based on the number of students who experienced homelessness during the 2017-18 school year, including the number of students in shelter, Carranza said.

Ensuring there are resources to help students with unstable living situations succeed in school starts with making sure their basic needs are being met, he noted.

“It is a key priority to invest in–and serve–our students and families in temporary housing, and we’re taking a real step forward today,” Carranza said in a statement. “When our systems and structures are clearly aligned and we give schools the capacity to effectively support their students, we see the greatest outcomes.” more