Despite attempts by the city to provide help to homeless students, the environment affects a child’s capacity to learn.
According to data provided by the New York City’s health department from September 2020, the majority of New Yorkers who are at high risk for poor mental health outcomes are predominantly people of color.
Fifty-three percent of Latino New Yorkers, 38% of Black New Yorkers and 44% of Asian New Yorkers are dealing with “overwhelming or above average financial stress (when compared to 40% of white New Yorkers). And the same groups have experienced job losses and reduced hours at 49%, 38%, 45% and 34% respectively.
Some officials are ready to lend help. Last month, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa issued guidance to local education agencies reminding them of their obligation to help homeless students have “consistent access to education resources.” They believe that identifying children who deserve more support than most should be a priority.
“Our children are our future, and we have a responsibility to ensure they are getting the supports they need and deserve,” stated James. “Far too often, students experiencing homelessness are left behind, especially in times of crisis. Ensuring our most vulnerable students have access to fundamental educational resources has never been more important, and I thank Commissioner Rosa for her partnership and continued commitment to New York’s students and families.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized helping the homeless as well during an interview this week with Ebro Darden on Hot 97. The mayor said that the city is obligated to house the homeless and assess their mental health when necessary given the pandemic’s effect on the mental health of all New Yorkers.
“…Look, here’s the simplest way to say it,” said de Blasio. “Everybody who is homeless on the street, once they were functioning in our world in, you know, everyday life, something caused them to spiral down to the point they were living on the street. We’ve got to bring them back up. We’ve got to bring them off the street, back up to a life that’s better and connect them with family again, get them the kind of treatment and support they need. We can reverse this trend…”
UFT’s spokesperson said that reversing the trend should continue post-pandemic.
“As we begin to recover as a city, we need to invest in our education infrastructure across the board, especially as it relates to technology,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to work with and push City Hall to focus on the most vulnerable students as their priority.”