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  • School staffers in shelters are a lifeline to NYC’s homeless families. Now their jobs are at risk.

    Apr 4, 2024

    Spencer Platt / Getty Images

    Chalkbeat — Seventy-five of the community coordinators are funded with one-time federal pandemic aid that expires in June, and the remaining 25 are supported with city funds that have not yet been renewed.

    The position of shelter-based community coordinator was created in 2022 at the urging of advocates. Prior to the pandemic, community coordinators were only based in schools. The Education Department also employs other staffers called “family assistants” who work in shelters and are not funded with federal aid. But advocates say those staffers, who make less than community coordinators and work only 10 months a year, often can’t meet all the complex needs of families in shelters.

    The community coordinators are among a long list of critical staff members and programs whose funding is tied to expiring federal aid – a list that includes 450 school social workers, free preschool for 3-year-olds, and community schools that partner with community organizations to provide extra services to families.

    As budget deadlines approach, families and advocates are urging the city to preserve the community coordinators, arguing they play a critical role on the frontlines of two colliding crises: the exploding number of students – many of them newly arrived migrants – living in homeless shelters, and elevated rates of chronic absenteeism in the wake of the pandemic.

    “It is unthinkable that funding for shelter-based community coordinators is in jeopardy at a time of such tremendous need,” said Jennifer Pringle, the director of the Learners in Temporary Housing project at the nonprofit Advocates for Children, which works to support the education of homeless youth.

    Education Department spokesperson Jenna Lyle said the coordinators “provide critical resources and supports to our young people in temporary housing.

    “We are extremely grateful for the stimulus funding that we used to support a range of programs and roles that support student wellbeing, especially as we continue to respond to the ongoing migrant crisis,” she added. “We will review these priorities as we go through the budget process.”