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  • Delays in free MetroCards for homeless NYC families threaten school attendance

    Apr 16, 2024

    Homeless families in New York City schools are entitled to free MetroCards, but many schools are reporting delays in the distribution of the MetroCards, leading to attendance challenges for some families.
    Drew Angerer / Getty Images

    Chalkbeat – Widespread shortages and delays in the distribution of free MetroCards to parents of homeless New York City public school students are frustrating families trying to get their kids to school, according to several sources.

    Schools are supposed to provide parents of students in temporary housing free 30-day MetroCards each month so they can accompany their children to school on public transit, according to city policy.

    But schools are struggling to get an adequate supply of MetroCards from the Education Department’s Office of Pupil Transportation, according to a survey of schools in Manhattan’s District 3 conducted last month by City Council Member Gale Brewer, D-Manhattan.

    The problems mount as the city also confronts a record number of homeless young people, driven by the arrival of an estimated 36,000 migrant children over the past two school years. Without the free MetroCards, some families have stopped sending their kids to class altogether, while others have resorted to hopping turnstiles and risking tickets, according to an April 5 letter from Brewer to Mayor Eric Adams sharing the results of the survey.

    It’s not clear exactly how widespread the problem is, and some schools said they’ve received an adequate supply. But the issue isn’t confined to District 3, according to Jennifer Pringle, the director of the Learners in Temporary Housing Project for the nonprofit Advocates for Children.

    Nearly three-quarters of students living in homeless shelters missed at least 18 days of school last year, according to Advocates for Children.