Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NYC student homelessness reaches record high of 119,320 children: report

By Cayla Bamberger New York Daily News New York Daily News

The number of homeless students in New York City public schools reached a record high last year, with roughly 1 in 9 schoolchildren lacking a stable place to call home.

A jaw-dropping 119,320 students slept in shelters or the overcrowded homes of friends and extended family – a 14% increase over the previous school year – according to a report a children’s legal advocacy group released Wednesday.

The data represent thousands more homeless children than during the previous peak, in 2017-18, despite a significant drop in overall public school enrollment in the years since then. The findings suggest kids have been caught in the crossfire of simultaneous immigration and housing crises besetting the city.

While needs continue to grow, key educational services for these students are at risk of disappearing. The school system hired staff to work in shelters with one-time federal dollars, but the Adams administration has not shared a plan to keep them on city payroll when funding expires. Additional staff are waiting in the wings to go onboard – but can’t start due to new budget and hiring restrictions.

“No child in New York City should be homeless,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, “but until we reach that goal, access to a quality education is our best possible tool for ensuring those living in shelter don’t re-enter the system as adults.”

Every borough and school district notched increased rates of student homelessness, data show. Harlem’s District 5, where total student enrollment dropped, was the only region where the count of kids without stable housing fell.

The majority of students who were homeless last year came from families who lost housing or can’t afford the rent, and needed to temporarily move in with relatives or friends, according to the report. The highest rate continued to be in the Bronx, where about 1 in 6 students did not have a permanent address.

Advocates for Children could not say how much of the increase was due to the ongoing migrant crisis, given that public schools do not track families’ immigration status. But an influx of families seeking asylum in New York could be changing the landscape of student homelessness.

Last school year, 40,840 schoolchildren spent time in a shelter – a 41% increase from the year before, surging much faster than the overall homeless student population. More than 100 new shelters, including for migrant families, have opened without any public school staff to provide help.

“It’s absurd that the city hasn’t given the green light to onboard staff who are already paid for with time-limited federal funds and who can help support students and families,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of Advocates for Children’s Learners in Temporary Housing project.

Spokesmen for the public schools would not say if they had requested a waiver from a citywide hiring freeze, which Mayor Adams attributed to soaring costs associated with shelter and services for migrants. Instead, they pointed to other staff with baseline funding and stationed in schools, not shelters, that work with students in temporary housing.

Those staffers could become even more important under a new citywide policy that could shuffle some migrant families around shelters every 60 days.

“While students who move to a new shelter placement have the right to stay in their original school, we know from our experience working with families that this is often a right in name only,” said Pringle. “Between delays in arranging busing, a shortage of bus drivers, unreasonably long commute times, and other obstacles, parents often feel they have no choice but to uproot their children from schools they love when they move shelters.”

More than one in every five students living in shelters switched schools during 2021-22, the most recent school year for which data were available.

Venezuelan native Henry Hernandez said new time limits on their emergency shelter stay could sever his 6-year-old daughter from her beloved school, Public School 116 Mary Lindley Murray in Murray Hill.

“How is it going to be if they kick us out of here?” Hernandez, 39, told the Daily News last week in Spanish. “Where is she going to study? She’s learning English very well. If we move, that’s going to cut it off, all of her learning is going to get cut off.”

More than 12,500 students in temporary housing have enrolled in public schools this fall – an indicator of the continued arrival of migrant families beyond the scope of the report, including many fleeing political persecution, poverty and war.

“Our young people experiencing homelessness are some of our most vulnerable students,” said Education Department spokeswoman Jenna Lyle in a statement, “and it is our ongoing priority to provide them with every support and resource at our disposal.”

“Moving forward, we will continue to work with our partners at the city and state levels to identify and establish supports for our students in temporary housing, while contending with the city’s financial reality,” she added.


(With Josephine Stratman)