Forgotten Face of Homelessness: Children

Every night in New York City, nearly 22,000 children go to bed in a homeless shelter. In response to the growing number of children entering the shelter system, Win released in April 2018 a series of policy solutions that empower families in need: The Forgotten Face of Homelessness: Children. The report is accompanied by a citywide public awareness campaign across a range of platforms–including Taxi TV–that features actress, director, producer, and social activist Brooke Shields, who serves as Win’s Homeless Ambassador. Please click below to view the video. 

The Problem

Last year, a record of nearly 13,000 families and nearly 22,000 children went to bed in a New York City homeless shelter. Families with children may not be the first image the word homeless evokes, but almost 70 percent of homeless New Yorkers in shelter on any given night are families with children. The new record high reflects a six percent increase from 2016 to 2017 in the number of homeless families with children in shelter.

The Impact of Homelessness on Children
Housing instability can stymie a child’s socio-emotional and cognitive development, with implications for mental health, behavioral health, and success in life. Homelessness is closely linked to chronic absenteeism and is linked to lower grades and test scores, leading to dimmed chances for high school completion, college and job prospects.

Our Solution: Policy Reforms to Reach Homeless Children

Win called for several reforms in the following three areas:

  • Addressing trauma and instability of children before they enter shelter.
  • Expanding and developing services that prioritize the needs of children during homelessness and time in shelter.
  • Connecting families to necessary services to prevent returning to shelter, including creating housing affordability and aftercare.
Specific legislative and policy changes include:
  • Reform the city’s Family Intake Process and continue support for ACS workers in high-risk neighborhoods.
  • Double the number of school-based social workers and add shelter-based social workers specialized in working with children.
  • Help students improve attendance and stay on track through partnerships between schools and homeless service providers, including wrap-around attendance services, data-sharing, and art- and science-based service models such as SONYC.
  • Prioritize childcare seats outside of shelter for homeless and previously homeless families.
  • Expand access to higher education for homeless moms and youth.

Fast Facts:

  • 2,700 children call Win ‘home’ every night
  • 55 percent of New Yorkers in family shelters are children
  • Win served more than 5,400 children last year
  • 42 percent of the children living in Win shelters are 5 years old or younger
  • More than 70 percent of NYC’s homeless are families with children