City schools failing to help homeless students, Public Advocate says

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NEW YORK — The number of homeless students in city schools is on the rise and the Education Department and Homeless Services are failing those students, Public Advocate Letitia James said.

Ten percent of New York City public school students were homeless last school year. A Wednesday report from the Public Advocates’s office found schools with highest rates of homeless students receive the fewest resources from  the Education and Homeless Services departments.

“Our City has failed to fulfill its promise to provide a quality education to every child, especially our homeless students,” James said. “Homeless students already face great odds in obtaining a quality education and instead of providing them with greater chances at success, we are denying them and their families the ability to thrive.

Just over 60,000 people are currently living in city shelters and about 40 percent of those people are children, Homeless Services data shows. Those children, according to James’ report, are chronically absent from school.

In school year 2013-2014, more than 65 percent of homeless students missed at least 10 percent of classes, officials said. Part of that is because families are not always placed in shelters near the child’s school.

There have been some efforts made by the city to address problems. The 2017 city budget allocated $10.3 million for programs to help homeless students. An additional 270 new bus routes were also created to help homeless students make it to school.

But James has called on the city to do more. She wants more social workers, more funding to schools with high rates of homeless students and a better way of tracking homeless students.

“We must do better to ensure that every school has the resources needed to provide for our most vulnerable students.”