Advocates Call On NYC To Address Issues Plaguing Homeless Student Population

Kevin Rincon
September 16, 2020 - 4:05 pm

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As schools reopen for remote learning in New York City, there’s an effort to highlight the growing struggles for students who are homeless. 

    One in 10 city school students experienced homelessness at some point in 2019, according to city data. As the school year moves online, those kids are getting help, however, some say it’s not nearly enough.

    “The city has distributed hundreds of thousands of iPads with data to students who need them, but at some city shelters the iPads don't work because there's no WiFi and isn't sufficient cellular reception,” says Randy Levine, the police director and Advocates for Children of New York. 

    She says for the roughly 100,000 students who experience homelessness, education is hard enough. They need more resources to help them learn as efficiently as their peers. 

    “Before the pandemic, fewer than a third of city students who are homeless were reading proficiency and only 60% graduated from high school,” Levine said.

    Her organization is one of 30 groups that wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, urging him to address several outstanding issues before the school year begins – among them, access to online learning. 

    “We need the city to urgently work across agencies, bring different agencies together, and charge someone with fixing these problems immediately,” Levine said.

    City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who recently announced his bid for mayor, also sent a letter to de Blasio calling on him to designate an “agency director of students.” 

    Mayor de Blasio responded to the calls, saying the city is focusing on those kids in need.

    “With counseling, teaching, tutoring, resources. We have initiatives in our shelters to provide support. It's not perfect – it's a very tough situation made tougher by the pandemic,” de Blasio said.

    School Chancellor Richard Carranza says the best way to help homeless students is by returning to in-person instruction.

    “It allows us to have a real check with students, to make sure that they have the food that they need, the technology that they need, the support system, the trauma-informed support that they need,” Carranza said.

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