By Bill Parry
One week after the city opened a new shelter for homeless families in East Elmhurst, Borough President Melinda Katz announced a drive that will collect backpacks and school supplies for the children who live there and at other shelters in Queens and around the city.
Dubbed “Project: Back to School,” it is an annual initiative organized by the Coalition for the Homeless.
The Department of Homeless Services moved 40 families into The Landing, formerly known as the Clarion, an emergency shelter officials say was needed following a 20 percent increase in homeless families entering the system since June. All 169 units will be filled with some of the 5,750 families that have entered the family shelter intake center in the last two months.
“About 87,000 New York City kids live in homeless shelters or temporary housing and not a single school district is spared,” Katz said. “Every child deserves a strong start to the school year with proper supplies just like their fellow peers. We urge Queens residents to donate generously toward this drive and encourage all residents to take advantage of various complimentary back-to-school giveaways throughout the borough in the coming weeks.”
Katz’s office is accepting backpack and school supply donations until Sept. 18 in a drop-off box placed in the lobby of Queens Borough Hall at 120-55 Queens Blvd. Donations are anonymous and are not tax-deductible.
In addition to backpacks, Coalition for the Homeless says supplies that are needed include No. 2 pencils, composition books, pocket folders, calculators, one-inch binders and colored pencils. Borough Hall is the only location where “Project: Back to School” donations are collected this year and it is easily reached on the E or F subway line at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station.
“School kids living in homeless shelters must contend with unimaginable levels of stress and hardship and are at a tremendous disadvantage when trying to keep up with their housed peers in class,” Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Dave Giffen said. “With nearly 24,000 children sleeping in homeless shelters tonight, it is so important that we do all we can to help these young kids achieve academically.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio has authorized a new emergency measure to provide rental assistance to homeless adults. The new Special Exit and Prevention Supplement is a $10 million initiative that will give subsidies to tenants facing eviction, domestic violence survivors timing out of shelters, veterans and recovering addicts discharged from treatment.
“We’ve moved nearly 15,000 individuals into permanent housing through our rental assistance programs, and this is a continuation of our aggressive effort to both prevent homelessness and move New Yorkers from shelters into permanent housing,” spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh said.
The subsidies will allow recipients to rent private apartments long term. The woman behind the measure, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, will depart City Hall at the end of September, leaving her $222,000-a-year post for an unpaid position as chairwoman of the Board of Health and Hospitals Corp.
De Blasio called Barrios-Paoli “an extraordinary public servant,” who served under four mayors. She becomes the highest-ranking official to resign during his 20 months in office.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr