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In one Brooklyn school district, one in five students lack stable housing

October 29, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Nearly one in 10 Brooklyn students were homeless during the course of the 2018-2019 school year, according to new data released Monday. But in one school district, that number was closer to one in five.

Officials at Advocates for Children of New York — the group that spearheads the annual report — say District 23, which encompasses Ocean Hill, Brownsville and parts of East New York, had the second-highest concentration of homeless students citywide. Of a total 9,290 enrolled students, 2,075 lacked stable housing during last school year.

“More than one out of every five students in District 23 experienced homelessness last year,” Randi Levine, policy director at AFC, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “That means that many of these children experienced the trauma of housing loss and, many times, of domestic violence, which is one of the driving factors of homelessness in New York City.”

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Districts 17 (East Flatbush and Crown Heights), 19 (East New York) and 20 (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Borough Park) had the highest sheer numbers of homeless students in the borough, though the numbers were lower than in District 23 in terms of concentration.

AFC’s latest report found that 114,085 students at district and charter schools across New York City were either living in shelters or doubling up with friends and family during the last school year. In Brooklyn alone, 31,158 students were considered homeless — almost 10 percent of the students enrolled, according to city data.

The number of homeless students in district and charter schools citywide from the last school year was just 574 students fewer than the year before, which set a record high at 114,659.

The number of New York City students in district and charter schools considered homeless has increased every year since the 2014-2015 school year. Over the last decade, the number has spiked 70 percent.

Map courtesy of Advocates For Children of New York

Despite the slight decrease this past year, a housing crisis remains among New York City’s students.

“Children who are homeless often endure longer commutes to school, or transfer schools in the middle of the school year, so it’s not surprising that we see poorer educational outcomes for students who are homeless,” Levine told the Eagle.

Those outcomes often include lower rates of reading efficiency, lower graduation rates, higher dropout rates and more chronic absences, she said.

And while the city’s Department of Education has made great strides since data was released for the 2017-2018 school year, Levine said there’s more to be done.

“Schools cannot necessarily help with this in terms of housing, but with the right support, they can help transform the lives of students who are homeless,” she said, noting that since the last data set was released, the city’s Department of Education has “basically revamped its school structure for students who are homeless.”

The department added a significant number of staff members to work in schools with a high number of students who are homeless, including social workers and regional coordinators for students in temporary housing.

“We’re making critical investments to meet the needs of students in temporary housing, including hiring social workers, providing busing and placing staff in schools focused on connecting families to community services and improving attendance,” Miranda Barbot, a Department of Education spokesperson, told the Eagle. “We’re committed to serving these students and families by providing the programs and resources they need to have access to continuous, high-quality education.”

Homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. As of August, the coalition found that there are 61,674 homeless people, including 14,806 homeless families and 21,802 homeless children, sleeping in the New York City municipal shelter system each night.

AFC’s report uses data collected from questionnaires that are administered by schools. “Schools administer a housing questionnaire to every family and they are asked whether they live in permanent housing, shelters, are doubled up with friends or family, or are in another form of unstable housing,” Levine said.

One in 10 students also lack stable housing citywide. Overall, Brooklyn ranked second in student homelessness; the Bronx tops the list at 39,722 students without stable housing. The numbers are lowest in Staten Island, where 2,558 students were considered homeless.

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