Homeless students swell in number

When public schools post abysmal test scores, efforts to explain the causes are dismissed as making excuses.  But I challenge critics to deny the impact of homelessness (“Homelessness in New York Public Schools Is at a Record High: 114,659 Students,” The New York Times, Oct. 16).

Although New York City has one of the highest populations of homeless students, with about 10 percent, it is hardly alone.  Chicago has about 5 percent and Los Angeles just above 3 percent.  In all three cities, homelessness is concentrated in schools serving the most disadvantaged students.

Teachers in those schools are forced to perform triage on a daily basis before they can begin to teach subject matter.  It’s one of the reasons that so many teachers quit the profession altogether or transfer to suburban schools.  The price that teachers pay is called compassion fatigue, and it’s cumulative.  Social workers provide some help. But they are overwhelmed.  For example, in New York City there is one social worker for every 1,660 homeless students.

Homelessness is particularly hard on children because they are most vulnerable to the hardships.  Expecting them to do homework and come to school rested and nourished every day is a fantasy.  That’s why I question the ability of the most dedicated teachers to do the job they were hired to do.

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4 Replies to “Homeless students swell in number”

  1. Not clear why homeless children are still living with their parents rather than in foster homes or some other govt program. Seems that, by definition, a homeless parent cannot be providing a safe/healthy environment for the child. Don’t know much about how city govts deal with the homeless, but my impression is that most city govts provide services to the homeless that enable the homeless to transition out of homeless status if the individuals involved want to do so. In other words, if parents are continuing to be homeless for more than a month or two, that suggests that the parents are failing to take advantage of these govt programs. If so, that would be strong evidence that the parents are mentally not competent to be raising children.


  2. Labor Lawyer: It may be that the best thing to do for parents who do not take advantage of the services offered to them is to place their children in foster homes where they can get the love and support they need. Of course, such a policy would be attacked as a form of blaming the victim. But it’s the children who deserve a solid education.


  3. I wish that there were enough foster homes for all the children, but there aren’t.
    In the county I live in there are cases where youngsters have to sleep at night in their case worker’s office.
    Also, if anyone thinks that one social worker can provide the proper services to 1,660 homeless students, is nuts.
    It is either pay now, or pay twice as much later.


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