One in Ten NYC Students Are Homeless and They Are Overwhelmingly Children of Color

A recent report by Advocates for Children of New York revealed that one in 10 students in New York City are homeless. A majority of New York City students with a lack of stable housing during the last school year were Black or Hispanic.

Advocates For Children released a report on October 28 that found that there were 114,085 homeless students in New York City during the 2018-2019 school year. Using state education department data, the advocacy group found that the number of homeless children in NYC schools decreased from last year by 500 students.

Data from the New York State Education Department showed that more than 34,000 students lived in the city’s shelters and another 73,750 lived “doubled up” in temporary housing with family, friends or others.

In fact, over the last decade, the number of school-age children in New York City forced to live in shelters or “doubled up” in apartments with others has dramatically risen by 70 percent, The New York Times reported. According to a special report by the Times, these children often bounce from place to place, with school acting as their only stable constant.

“This problem is immense. The number of New York City students who experienced homelessness last year — 85 percent of whom are Black or Hispanic — could fill the Barclays Center six times,” Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates For Children, said in a statement to The North Star. “The city won’t be able to break the cycle of homelessness until we address the dismal educational outcomes for students who are homeless.”

Why It Matters

A report by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools found that homelessness most often affects children of color. The report found that 95 percent of students living in shelters were Black or Hispanic. The authors of the report noted that the figure underscores “the disproportionate impact of extreme poverty on NYC’s Black and Latino students.”

Data from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness reveals that 53 percent of homeless NYC students are Hispanic, 32 percent are Black and 10 percent are Asian.

Homelessness among students has been closely linked to their educational outcomes, Advocates For Children said. The City’s homeless students are struggling academically and it can be seen in their testing and graduation rates.

Randi Levine, of Advocates for Children of New York, told The North Star that when looking at educational outcomes of NYC students, “we see disparities based on race and disparities based on housing situations.” She noted that NYC students who are homeless display “poor educational outcomes,” while those who specifically live in shelters display “even worse educational outcomes.”

According to the Times, more than 70 percent of the city’s homeless students failed state English exams last year. More than two-thirds of homeless students are reading below proficiency and 63 percent failed the state’s math test, according to Chalkbeat.

Meanwhile, just 57 percent of NYC students who are homeless graduate from high school. That number drops to below 50 percent for students living in shelters, Advocates for Children of New York revealed. The organization’s report noted that the lack of a high school diploma is the “single greatest risk factor for homelessness among young adults.”

The city has taken some steps to support homeless students, but more needs to be done, Sweet said in a statement. Officials placed more than 100 community coordinators in schools with high numbers of homeless students, offered yellow bus service to kindergarten through sixth grade students living in shelters, boosted pre-K enrollment of students living in shelters and provided after-school reading programs in some shelters.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brought in 31 new “Bridging the Gap” social workers to city schools this year that specifically focus on homeless children. The City has only about 100 social workers, costing about $14 million a year, despite the Education Department’s annual budget of about $24 billion.

“We are heartened by the support the city has added for students who are homeless, but now the hard work begins,” Sweet said. “With new leadership and school staff in place, the city must begin turning around educational outcomes for students who are homeless, starting with making sure students get to school every day.”

What Can Be Done

Win, a nonprofit Department of Homeless Services partner that runs 11 shelters and more than 300 supportive housing units in the city, released their annual Forgotten Face of Homelessness report callsing for reforms to help homeless families in New York City. This year, the organization is calling for reforms to the city’s Family Intake Process and for the creation of a shelter development fund for proven nonprofit providers.

Win is also calling for an increase in the rental assistance voucher amounts, enforcement of fair housing laws and for the city to provide families with the tools to maintain a permanent home. The organization did not immediately respond to The North Star for comment.

You can donate, volunteer and get involved with Win, here. Other organizations worth considering, include: Coalition for the Homeless and The Bowery Mission. Levine said she encourages people to call their local family shelter to make a donation or ask about their needs. She also pointed to Advocates for Children of New York and the Family Homelessness Coalition for those who want to help support advocacy on behalf of students who are homeless.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.