Amid Record Rates Of Student Homelessness Advocates Call On Mayor To Increase Funding

May 28, 2019

Today, Christine C. Quinn President & CEO of Win (formerly Women in Need) – the largest provider of shelter in New York City from Harlem to Hollis for homeless women and their children,

joined Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) Kim Sweet, Associate Executive Director of Policy and Planning for Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC) Raysa Rodriguez and Councilmember Mark Treyger at New York City Hall to call on the City to fund and baseline at least 100 social workers for schools with the highest concentration of students living in shelter – an important increase at a time when city schools have a record number of students who are homeless.

There were 114,000 homeless children in New York City public schools during the 2017-2018 school year— about one in ten students – including nearly 38,000 students living in shelters. As the final city budget is negotiated, leading homeless advocates and elected officials are asking for funding for 100 “Bridging the Gap” social workers to address the needs of students experiencing homelessness.

“Until we provide the proper resources to support the thousands of students who sleep in a shelter each night, we cannot say we are doing our part to help every child in New York City succeed,” said Christine C. Quinn, President, and CEO of Win. “Homeless children are at an increased risk of experiencing toxic stress through frequent adversity and traumatic events. These experiences combined with housing instability often result in children being left behind in the classroom. There are proven solutions to support these students, and by hiring school-based social workers, we can make a significant difference in their lives and education, helping families break the cycle of homelessness.”

“Schools alone cannot end homelessness, but with the right support, schools can transform the lives of students who are homeless,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “With tens of thousands of students living in a shelter, the City must ensure there are at least 100 ‘Bridging the Gap’ social workers to help meet their needs.”

“With one in 10 public school children living in temporary housing, and close to 38,000 of them living in a shelter over the course of the year, New York City must take additional steps to better support these children and their educational success,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children. “While homelessness causes stress, anxiety, and trauma for children, having social worker supports in schools has been beneficial for the students in schools served by the current 69 Bridging a Gap social workers. However, there are still too many schools with a high number of students experiencing homelessness with no social workers on site. We must expand ‘Bridging the Gap’ to 100 social workers in this budget.”

“New York City is supposed to be one of the most progressive cities in the nation—yet we continue to leave one of our most vulnerable student populations behind. Increasing funding for ‘Bridging the Gap’ social workers in our schools is crucial to the academic success of children who have complex needs. One in ten students live in temporary housing, and far too often they struggle with trauma. Putting trained, trusted adults directly into schools is the best way for us to meet our moral mandate and ensure that homeless students have the support they need to thrive,” said NYC Council Education Chair, Mark Treyger (District 47).

“I stand with Win and Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger to call upon the Mayor to fund 100 social workers for public schools with the largest number of homeless students,” said NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “These children need licensed social workers to help them cope with the many challenges that come with experiencing homelessness and other forms of housing insecurity. Legally and morally, we are obliged to provide homeless students with a quality education—and in this case, that can only happen by increasing the number of social workers within the NYC DOE. The time to take action and put academic success within the reach of these at-risk students is now.”

Bridging the Gap” social workers are specially trained to address the underlying stress and trauma that can hold students back from thriving academically and socially. “Bridging the Gap” social workers meet regularly with students to provide counseling, connect them to academic support and mental health services and work to improve attendance. These social workers also help families overcome potential barriers to regular school attendance.

  • Currently, the city-wide ratio of “Bridging the Gap” social workers to students living in shelters is one to 550.
  • 100 schools have 50 or more students living in shelter and no “Bridging the Gap” social worker.
  • 30 schools have 70 or more students living in shelter and no “Bridging the Gap” social worker.

The City took a positive step by placing 69 “Bridging the Gap” social workers in schools with high populations of students living in shelters to focus on serving this population. But without action to add critical funding, thousands of students living in shelter will be left behind.

Since 1983, Win has been transforming the lives of New York City’s homeless women and their children by providing a holistic solution of safe housing, critical services and programs they need to succeed on their own — so the women can regain their independence and their children can look forward to a brighter future. With more than 1,600 units of transitional housing providing shelter for more than 4,600 people every night, Win focuses on solutions for the many causes of homelessness by helping women improve their job skills, life skills, personal health and more. Win’s children’s services include childcare, after-school programs, and Camp Win, a summer day camp program. Win also provides permanent supportive housing offering dedicated, long-term support to families with additional needs.

Since 1971, Advocates for Children of New York has worked to ensure a high-quality education for New York students who face barriers to academic success, focusing on students from low-income backgrounds who are at greatest risk for failure or discrimination in school because of their poverty, disability, race, ethnicity, immigrant or English Language Learner status, sexual orientation, gender identity, homelessness, or involvement in the foster care or juvenile justice systems. AFC uses four integrated strategies: free advice and legal representation for families of students; free trainings and workshops for parents, communities, and educators and other professionals to equip them to advocate on behalf of students; policy advocacy to effect change in the education system and improve education outcomes; and impact litigation to protect the right to quality education and compel needed reform.

Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York educates and mobilizes New Yorkers to make the city a better place for children. Since 1944, our advocacy has combined public policy research and data analysis with citizen action. We cast light on the issues, educate the public, engage allies, and identify and promote practical solutions to ensure that every New York City child is healthy, housed, educated and safe. For more information on CCC, visit our web site at Stay up to date on the latest news and information regarding the well-being of New York City’s children by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Christine Quinn Wikipedia.

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