Homelessness

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New York

Council presses city agencies to do more for homeless students

Seth Diamond, commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services and Kathleen Grimm, DOE deputy chancellor, testify before a city council hearing on education barriers facing homeless youth. Despite improvements, the city is still falling short at protecting homeless students from disruptions to their education, advocates told members of the City Council today. Education committee chair Robert Jackson said he convened a hearing on obstacles facing homeless students in part to follow up on the story, reported by the Daily News last year, of a high school student who was unable to take a required Regents exam because she had to spend the day with her family going through the city's shelter intake process. Since then, the Department of Homeless Services revised its policy to excuse children from most of the lengthy intake process. "We're pleased that this harmful policy was changed," Jackson said. But he said, "This is but one example of the hardships faced by homeless students. DHS's placement of families in shelters outside of their original community, combined with the [Department of Education]'s busing restrictions, lead to many students in shelters having to transfer schools, thereby disrupting their education." DOE and DHS officials said they are increasingly collaborating to help students classified as homeless, who have quadrupled since 2008 to more than 65,000 and who make up a significant portion of students who are chronically absent from school. But the officials said they could do more to help more support students' legal right to remain enrolled at their "school of origin," the school they were enrolled in before becoming homeless. DOE Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said the DOE has counted 50,000 students in temporary housing, 20,000 of them in shelters. "Our number indicates about 65 percent remain in their school of origin," she said. "We have no idea why parents move a child from a school, and maybe that's something we could address." Advocates said the answer could be found in the city's policies about school transportation and placement. "Unfortunately, specific practices at DOE and DHS all but guarantee educational instability for a large swath of homeless students," testified Jared Stein, the assistant director of New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students, an advocacy group that helps school districts work with homeless students.