Advocates want the city Education Department to hire 150 people to make sure students in homeless shelters get to school every day.
Chronic absenteeism — defined as missing more than one in ten school days — is a big challenge citywide this year, and it’s more pronounced among students in homeless shelters.
Last school year, 64% of students living in shelters were marked chronically absent, compared to 28% of their peers in permanent housing.
The money to hire workers in shelters would come from $33 million in federal stimulus funds, the advocates say. The workers, called community coordinators, would help homeless families with any school-based needs.
The city has already committed to hiring 50 new community coordinators with federal cash, but advocates say that’s not enough, and are pushing the agency to use the remainder of the federal money to hire 100 more.
“With 60% of students living in shelter chronically absent from school, it is important to have someone on the ground in the shelter who can partner directly with families, determine why a particular child is missing school, and resolve the problem,” 30 advocacy organizations wrote in a letter Thursday to Mayor Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks.
Advocates noted that the number of DOE staffers working in shelters hasn’t grown in the past ten years, even as the number of kids living in shelters increased by 40 percent. The job for family assistants currently working in shelters pays just $28,000 a year, the groups added, making it difficult to recruit and retain staff.
The 50 additional community coordinators the Education Department already promised will help, but “are not nearly enough,” advocates wrote.
The federal stimulus money is a one-time allocation, but advocates say it would be enough to pay the salaries of 150 shelter-based staffers for two years — long enough to make “a far-reaching impact in addressing chronic absenteeism during the mayor’s first term.”
The advocates also pushed the DOE to move forward with plans to hire an additional four “regional managers” in charge of overseeing services for homeless students across school districts.
A DOE spokeswoman pointed out that in addition to the 117 family assistants already on staff, the agency has 200 school-based community coordinators and social workers dedicated to working with homeless students.