NEW YORK – Rising numbers of New York City school children experience homelessness every year, and that can have a serious impact on their entire educational career.
Since 2010, more than 220,000 children in the city have been homeless while enrolled in school – more than half while in elementary school.
They are more likely to be chronically absent and to change schools in mid-year. And according to Josef Kannegaard – a principal policy analyst at the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness – those impacts can last even after their families secure permanent housing.
“If they are not engaged with support services, they will have lingering effects that can severely diminish the likelihood that they will be graduating on time,” says Kannegaard.
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He adds that homeless children in New York City schools are entitled to services such as transportation to help them attend even if their families are not in the shelter system.
Kannegaard notes that more than a third of homeless high school students report being bullied, and they are at heightened risk for serious mental-health issues.
“Nearly half report struggling with depression and they can be even four times as likely to attempt suicide,” says Kannegaard.
Only 56% of students who experience homelessness during high school graduate on time.
Kannegaard points out that the first step in getting help is identifying who is homeless. But many may not want to self-identify or may not be aware that being homeless gives them some legal protections.
“The majority of homeless students aren’t in a family shelter, and so they may not know the types of services and rights that they are entitled to,” says Kannegaard.
He says understanding the scope and challenges of homelessness in public schools is key to developing targeted solutions.