New York City is home to the nation’s largest public-school system with over 1.1 million students. As one can expect, this comes with a host of challenges such as equity and integration for newly arrived students. However, I was surprised to learn that there are currently around 111,500 (about 10%) of all NYC public school students are currently homeless. That's 1 out of every 7 students. I’ve attended NYC public schools from K-12 and currently enrolled at a public college downtown. I’ve never had a classmate or schoolmate who was homeless. This has made the above figures all the more surprising. Though the number of current homeless students is alarming, a more alarming stat is that this is an increasing trend. During the 2015-2016 school year, the number of homeless students reached 100,000 and has increased to its current tally of 111,500. Homeless students include those living in shelters, with extended family or friends, cars or hotels, or any temporary place.
This inevitably harms the level of education these students receive. For instance, an audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, which focused strictly on students living in shelters, found that on average, those students missed 41.6 days out of 178 school days. Homeless students also tend to drop out, don`t often graduate or enroll in GED programs, and attend two schools in one academic year. This creates a system in which many of the city’s poor and underprivileged students don’t receive the chance to change their circumstances, thus repeating an endless cycle. Furthermore, city workers assigned to help homeless students often feel overwhelmed.
I don’t have many experiences with homeless students despite being in the NYC public school system all my educational life. I faintly remember one of my teachers sharing a story about a homeless student and the challenges he faced in and out of the classroom. What are some ways to help homeless students in NYC?