Students living in temporary housing are especially vulnerable to truancy and chronic absenteeism, making it critical that homeless shelters offer their students a culture that supports school attendance and success. To help develop this culture, the Task Force, the Department of Education, and the Department of Homeless Services now track student attendance and absences at 15 targeted shelters, then designate individuals at each shelter to help provide students with support to stay on track. In addition, family shelters citywide have created homework centers to ensure that students have a place to do their work after school hours. The Department of Education and the Department of Homeless Services also signed first-ever data sharing agreements that allow selected DHS placement staff to access student education files. As a result, placement of families at shelters in the school district of their youngest child has doubled-making it easier for young people to get to school every day.
Beyond this work, the Department of Education and the Department of Homeless Services have coordinated family summits on attendance and educational achievement for families from City homeless shelters. The annual summits provide parents with the resources, knowledge and tools to help keep their children in school. Break-out sessions covered asthma management, attendance and promotional requirements, conflict management, and how to prevent bullying. Department of Education officials helped attendees register for ARIS Parent Link, the DOE's innovative program that allows parents to review real-time information about their children’s attendance, test scores and grades. During breakfast and lunch sessions, parents also had an opportunity to meet with representatives from social service and community organizations including: the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries; NYS-TEACHS; Adult & Continuing Education; District 79; Mediate NYC and Dial-A-Teacher.
Finally, the Task Force is working with community partners like Girls on the Run and Chess in Schools to bring their programs into the shelters, helping to build students’ emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development.