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No internet in shelters worsens conditions for homeless New Yorkers, NYC Bar finds

May 22, 2020 David Brand
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A lack of internet access is preventing New Yorkers in city shelters from finding and securing affordable housing amid the city’s historic homelessness crisis, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the City Bar Justice Center.

The City Bar Justice Center, the nonprofit affiliate of the New York City Bar Association, found that the lack of internet access is causing additional problems for homeless families during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has closed schools and forced students to do their schoolwork online.

“The problem of no or limited internet access in shelters has been front and center during the COVID crisis as the Department of Education has had to scramble over weeks to obtain and provide internet-enabled devices to homeless children so they could engage in remote learning with their peers,” said Lisa Pearlstein, director of the CBJC’s Legal Clinic for the Homeless Project.

“These children should have had internet access all along, so they could complete their school assignments as easily as their more fortunate peers,” Pearlstein added.

Families with children account for roughly 70 percent of the Department of Homeless Services population.

 The Legal Clinic for the Homeless surveyed shelter residents last year and found that shelters do not provide adequate access to the internet and that most residents are unable to regularly access the internet unless they use phones with costly cellular plans.

Consistent internet access would improve living conditions and expedite the search for affordable housing, the report determined.


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  1. Jessica Q. Hayward

    As a person currently working my way out of homelessness, I can certainly aver that had an old friend not stepped in and loaned me an iPad on which to communicate with my assigned case worker and their organization, I would still be on the sidewalk. It is impossible for the homeless to keep up with their cases as all organizations ask that a phone number is provided which is simply outlandish. The homeless are constantly incurring theft, especially of electronic items and maintaining a working phone number is a ludicrous concern/requirement.