After School, Homeless Kids Find Few Options

After School, Homeless Kids Find Few Options


by Rochana Rapkins and Vineeth Thomas

A bed, a meal and a shower: these are the immediate needs of many families facing homelessness. But in the long-term, the effect of homelessness on educational attainment is just as pressing.

Some private shelters, like those managed by Homes for the Homeless, have their own childcare centers that provide daycare and afterschool services.  Children are taken to museums or attend special literacy programs. Mothers can opt for jewelry making, yoga and financial literacy classes. Mothers and young children can attend “Mommy and Me” sessions together.

But for most children living in shelters and transitional housing, this is not the norm. Noise is incessant in many shelters. Although students are eligible for transportation to their school of origin, frequent moves disrupt the continuity of children’s education. Experts such as Amy Ellen, director of the NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy, point to the link between mobility and poor academic performance.

The Department of Education has made some strides to close the gaps between regular students and those who are homeless or are in transitional housing. The department has partnered with several community-based organizations to provide citywide after-school programs, which are open to middle school and high school students. Services offered include counseling, homework help and test preparation, post-secondary planning, peer mentoring, parent workshops, and college preparation.

The goal of the programs are to target the needs of middle and high school students in temporary housing with emphasis on those in shelters, unaccompanied youth and doubled-up populations. The program serves up to 150 homeless students residing in each borough.

The Hope Leadership Academy, a program run by the Children’s Aid Society, is designed to give young people aged 14-24 a safe place to process their experiences. Below, Michael A. Roberts shares his thoughts. Roberts is the organization’s Assistant Division Director/Adolescent Services of City and Country Branches; his audio appears at various Children’s Aid Society locations across the city.

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