One in ten New York City public school students are homeless

Over the past year, nearly one in ten college students in New York City have lived in homeless shelters, double-crossed with other families, lived in cars, abandoned buildings or outdoors, according to a new report from Advocates for Children of New York. This means that over 104,000 children were homeless, out of a total school enrollment of over one million. This represents a 3% increase for the 2021-22 school year at a time when enrollment has plummeted due to the COVID pandemic.

New York Schoolchildren [Photo: New York City Department of Education]

The social scourge of homelessness in New York City has never stopped over the past three years, although the rise in numbers has slowed somewhat due to temporary rent moratoriums that Democratic Party politicians have been enforcing. forced to implement in the first months of the pandemic. About 61,000 people live in city-run homeless shelters and another 3,000 live on the streets. The official homelessness figures, unlike those in the study cited here, do not count families or individuals who have doubled or live in cars. The number of homeless people in the United States is estimated at 552,830, one-third of whom are families.

The most affected schools are in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. In District 24, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, Elmhurst and Maspeth, for example, there was, according to the study, a 1.3% drop in enrollment and a 21.9% increase in the number of residents. students who had experienced some form of homelessness. This means that in District 24, about one in eight students were homeless, a jump from one in ten from the previous year. These neighborhoods also had some of the highest death rates in the United States from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in 2020. Other areas with significant increases in homeless students were in the Bronx, the poorest urban county in the United States, where one in seven students had experienced homelessness. The city’s highest rates were in the Bronx’s Southwest District 9, where more than one in five college students were homeless in 2021-22. District 6 in Upper Manhattan, which includes Washington Heights and Inwood, and Districts 23 (Brownsville) and 32 (Bushwick) in Brooklyn also had high rates.

Those numbers don’t include special education districts or the 6,000 migrant children who have arrived in the city in the past four months, kicked out of the U.S.-Mexico border by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbot. Many of these children and their families are fleeing dire living conditions in Venezuela and Central American countries.

Homeless youth have suffered disproportionately from the effects of the pandemic due to the lack of high-speed internet connections for distance learning in homeless shelters and the inability to meet with counselors located in schools . The study also showed that 60% of homeless youth do not graduate from high school in four years and are three times more likely to drop out than other students. Homeless children have a chronic absenteeism rate of 64%, while this figure has risen sharply for all students since the start of the pandemic to more than 40%.

The expiration of the eviction moratorium has been a key factor in the growth of homelessness. Democratic politicians from Biden to New York Governor Hochul authorized the resumption of evictions in January 2022, despite high levels of unemployment and prevailing low wages for the poorer sections of the working class who, in real terms , are pushed even lower by high inflation. Hundreds of thousands of workers now find themselves unable to pay months of rent arrears accumulated during lockdowns at the start of the pandemic.

As a result, the population of the city’s homeless shelter system increased by 25% from May to September to nearly 58,000. The shelter system is a concoction of 300 buildings mostly rented to private landlords and operated by dozens of non-profit groups. Former mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise to open 90 buildings dedicated to shelters has never been fulfilled. The city ended the use of 3,600 apartments in substandard shelters, of which only 1,200 were converted into permanent housing for the homeless. Additionally, the city has only built or renovated 16,000 of the 25,000 affordable apartments planned between July 2021 and June 2022.

As affordable housing has become harder to find, “the average length of stay in a family shelter increased to 534 days in fiscal year 2022, from 443 days in fiscal year 2020.” New York Times reports.

To say that big developers and landlords have enormous influence over the state and city governments of New York, which are dominated by the Democratic Party, is a gross understatement. Housing prices and rents have been allowed to rise sharply over the past year, reducing the availability of affordable housing for the working class. Market housing is unaffordable for most New Yorkers. The median monthly rent in New York for a one-bedroom apartment has risen to $3,940, according to housing website Zumper. The national median rent is $1,503 for a bedroom.

Although de Blasio was forced to end the practice of placing families in unsafe and expensive hotels, Democratic Mayor Eric Adams resumed renting hotel rooms because most of the new migrants bused in from the Texas and other southern border states are families with children. The law requires that each family be placed in their own room.

The city’s expense of renting a hotel was the motivation behind Adams’ creation of a miserable tent city on Randall’s Island for new migrant families who will live in a hard-to-reach part of town. reach and under the supervision of the National Guard in shelters. which will not protect residents from the cold. Far from addressing the need for more services and educators, Mayor Adams imposed major budget cuts on schools, with hundreds of educators “overstaffed” (a form of internal layoff) closing dozens of programs.

Adams also ordered every city department, including those homeless or involved in housing, to cut their budgets by 3%. Homeless children, like all students in New York schools, are now at risk of illness from COVID-19 as new variants of the virus begin to spread across the city during the cold months. The Adams administration has abolished all mandatory COVID mitigation measures, including masking, social distancing, testing and contact tracing in schools, grossly inadequate as those measures are. Governor Hochul has done the same statewide, and the two Democratic politicians are following the Biden administration’s game plan of accepting the massive infection, death and debility of the American people.

The latest figures, released by the city as raw data only, show that in the first part of last week, the city’s Department of Education reported 2,038 new COVID cases among college students and staff, for a total for the first month of school of 20,958 infections. COVID cases for students and staff have increased by 30% over the past week

Children living in the crowded conditions of homeless shelters are particularly vulnerable to infections not only from COVID, but also from the wide range of airborne pathogens such as RSV and influenza, which send children to the hospital in record numbers this year. The education crisis, including the spread of contagious diseases in school buildings, budget cuts and the preparation of a sold-out contract with the city by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), are part of a much broader international crisis of capitalist domination caused by inflation, the proxy war between the United States and NATO in Ukraine, the systematic cultivation of a recession by the ruling elite itself and the rise of far-right forces. These are expressed in the form of a greater social crisis in New York, not only in education, but also in poverty and homelessness, low wages and the growing lack of affordable housing. . This crisis has launched millions of workers into struggle around the world, including nurses in the United States and Germany, railway workers in the United States and Britain and educators in Canada, to name a few. only a few.

Of note is the overwhelmingly favorable reaction of autoworkers in the Midwest and South to socialist Mack Trucks worker Will Lehman’s campaign for the United Auto Workers presidency, who is running on the platform of the abolition of union bureaucracy and the return of power to the ranks and -file workers. The same struggle is underway in New York, where conditions have reached breaking point. Adjunct professors at New York University are set to strike next month over poverty wages and inadequate medical care.

Educators, students and parents have come under attack after attacks by Democratic Party politicians, from Biden to Hochul, de Blasio to Adams, with the help of unions such as the UFT. A movement will invariably break out in the schools, and it will need new forms of organization and political independence from capitalist parties. Educators, parents and students who want to prepare for this fight should join the Northeast Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee.

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