Helping the Homeless Student
by Anthony Lopez
Mar 21, 2017 | 11329 views | 0 0 comments | 490 490 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to open 90 new homeless shelters across the city, some people were naturally concerned that their neighborhood would receive one.

One of the benefits of housing shelters in the community, the administration argues, is that too often homeless students who live in hotels far from public transportation are forced to schlep long distances to get to school.

Those students arrive at school late and exhausted. But even those who don’t travel far bring a host of challenges to the schools they attend.

They often come to schools academically behind and in need of counselors and mentors that are sensitive to their individual needs and difficult situation.

It’s a situation that schools in Astoria and Long Island City face all too often. District 30, which serves these two communities, has the second highest concentration of homeless students in Queens, according to a recent report by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness.

At the Academy for New Americans in Astoria, for instance, 72 out of its 211 students were reported to be homeless in the 2014-2015 school year.

While this is surprising to some who see these two neighborhoods as communities with strong brick houses and close-knit families, it’s not surprising to those of us that serve these schools.

As an advocate for children in Astoria and Long Island City, I see students with an array of needs and schools without enough resources to help them.

In 2011, The Elmezzi Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving conditions for Astoria residents, created Zone 126 to get help for the schools in the zip codes that serve these two neighborhoods.

Much like The Harlem Children Zone helped rebuild education in upper Manhattan, Zone 126 is taking a targeted approach to making sure children and their families in Northwest Queens succeed.

Zone 126 works with nearly two dozen partner organizations in this effort to help more than 10,000 children and their families in Long Island City and Astoria.

The goal, using a cradle-to-career approach, is to get more students in the area graduating high school, into college, and over time out of poverty.

One essential strand of this work is a focus on students who are off track for success, including those who are homeless through no fault of their own.

We want to make sure Astoria and Long Island City thrive.

Regardless of whether this community is targeted for a homeless shelter, one thing is clear: our schools have a high number of homeless children and without the resources to help them, all students suffer.

Anthony Lopez is executive director of Zone 126.

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