As New York City and state scramble to find a solution to the city’s growing homeless crisis, Queens — and each of the other boroughs — has seen a steady rise in the number of public school students in the shelter system since the 2011-2012 school year.
A study by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) shows that Queens had the second largest percent increase — 50 percent — of the number of homeless students attending public school in the borough between the 2011-2012 school year and the 2015-2016 year.
According to the study, in 2011-2012, Queens saw 2,651 public school students living part or all of the year in the shelter system; in 2012-2013, Queens had 2,932; in 2013-2014 the borough had 2,962; in 2014-2015 that number jumped to 3,225 students; and in the 2015-2016 school year, Queens had a total of 3,971 public school students living in shelters at some point during the year.
Staten Island placed first with a 105 percent increase during the five-year period, but they see far fewer children in the shelter system in their schools compared to the other boroughs, with 971 students in the shelter system during the 2015-2016 school year.
In all, the number of students that attend city public schools who lived for some part of the school year in the homeless shelter system during the 2015-2016 school year grew by more than 4,000 — or 15 percent — from the previous year, to a total of nearly 33,000, the IBO study found.
Even more troubling, according to the study, a dismal 179 of the city’s 1,475 public schools — only 12.1 percent — that were open during the entire five-year study period, excluding charter schools, served 10 percent or more of students in shelters for a year or more.
In addition, only 45 schools served 10 percent or more of homeless students over the five years, meaning a large number of the city’s homeless students are attending a small number of schools.
Experts believe that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City” plan, which aims to get homeless individuals and families out of inadequate hotel rooms and cluster sites and into their original neighborhoods, may increase the number of homeless students in some schools, while lowering it in others.
Students living in the shelter system often times face greater obstacles than their peers. In a 2016 study, the IBO examined the many obstacles students living in temporary housing, including the homeless shelter system, face on a daily basis like changing schools, and difficulty getting to their schools which leads to chronic lateness and absences.
The IBO’s study excludes students attending charter schools, as well as students in District 75 special education and District 79 alternative high school programs. It also excludes students that are home schooled and in pre-K programs run by community organizations.