Forgotten Face of Homelessness: Children
Every night in New York City, over 23,000 children go to bed in a homeless shelter. With a growing number of children entering the shelter system, Win is releasing the second in 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 will serve as Win’s Homeless Ambassador.
Children comprise 60 percent of New Yorkers in family shelter
- 1 in 10 students in public school are homeless
- 1 in 7 children will experience homelessness before fifth grade
- Win served more than 4,300 children last year – approximately 10 percent of all children in shelter
- 1 in 3 children at Win were under age 5; 66% were school-aged (age 5 to 18)
The impact of homelessness on children
Housing instability can stymie children’s healthy socio-emotional and cognitive development, with implications for mental health, behavioral health, and success in life. Homelessness is closely linked to chronic absenteeism, defined by the New York City Department of Education as missing 18 or more days of school, and is linked to lower grades and test scores, leading to dimmed chances for high school completion, college and job prospects. Homeless families are disproportionately likely to experience involvement with multiple government agencies, notably the child welfare system, which increases children’s exposure to trauma and toxic stress that impedes healthy development.
Policy reforms to reach homeless children
Win is calling for several reforms in 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; and connecting families to necessary services to prevent returning to shelter, including creating housing affordability and aftercare:
- 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.