- New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) Chancellor Richard Carranza announced this week that the district plans to hire 100 new community coordinators to work in schools with a high number of homeless students to help address the absenteeism and lagging academic performance common in this population, Chalkbeat reports.
- The district has more than 114,000 students who are homeless this year, a record high number. The city’s most recent budget sets aside roughly $16 million for after-school programs and will provide for another 70 social worker positions for homeless shelters and schools.
- Though the responsibilities of the new coordinators have not been clearly defined, the city plans to use money provided through the Every Student Succeeds Act to pay them. They will work with the social workers to help address the problems that homeless students face.
New York City has the highest population of homeless students in America. According to a recent article in the New York Times, one of every 10 students in the city is technically homeless as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. At 144 schools in the city, roughly one-third of the students are homeless. This high homeless population affects the schools' academic performance. In the 2015-16 academic year, only 15% of students living in shelters passed the state English test and only 12% passed the math test.
Though the problem of homelessness is more often discussed in large cities, it is a problem that affects the entire country, including rural areas. According to a report released this month by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, roughly 1 in 10 young adults and 1 in 30 teenagers in the country experience homelessness within any 12-month period.
While schools are an important conduit for services for homeless children and youth in cities, the role of schools becomes more important in rural areas, which don’t have as many support services to offer and where these services are harder to access because of transportation issues. According to the Chapin Hall report, “Rural Counties Lack Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness,” it's important to involve "broader public systems," including schools, child welfare and justice systems as well as after-school providers and the faith community in rural areas to identify homeless students and address their needs, "given the common lack of youth-specific homeless service providers in these parts of the country.”
Schools cannot solve the problem of homelessness alone, but many are taking steps to remove the barriers to learning. Ways that schools can support homeless students include providing drop-in centers for students and having on-site clinics. One of the best ways that schools can support homeless students is by providing them with a safe haven during the school day and supporting them in their academic goals, so they can find a better life in the future.