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Jonatan’s Story

Jonatan, an immigrant student from Guatemala, needed assistance enrolling in an appropriate high school.

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Who We Serve

Students in Temporary Housing

Students in Temporary Housing and Project LIT

Advocates for Children of New York’s (AFC) Project LIT – Learners In Temporary housing, provides individual case assistance, community education, and policy advocacy to improve access to school and supports in school so that students experiencing homelessness can be successful in school and break the cycle of homelessness.

AFC has been protecting and promoting the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness for decades. In the late 1980’s and early 90s, with the rise of family homelessness in NYC, AFC released a series of reports bringing much-needed attention to the issue of family homelessness and its impact on children’s education: Learning In Limbo [PDF]; And Miles to Go; and later in the mid-2000’s Up Against the Odds.

From 2005-2021, we operated the statewide homeless education technical assistance center where we handled over 29,000 cases and presented over 950 professional development events with close to 65,000 participants. AFC has successfully led efforts to get social workers in NYC schools with high numbers of students who are homeless, to get more funding for NYC schools with high needs to specifically serve students experiencing homelessness, and to secure busing for students in NYC shelters.

Project LIT focuses on the over 100,000 students in New York City (1 in 10) who experience homelessness each year. Students who are living in a homeless shelter or other temporary housing arrangement have important rights, including the right to remain in the school they were attending before they became homeless, the right to transportation to their school, and the right to enroll in the local school and attend classes immediately, even if they don't have the documents formally needed. Youth who lack a high school diploma or equivalency are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness as a young adult than their peers who completed high school. Project LIT works to ensure that children and youth have the support and services they need to be successful in school and prevent future homelessness.

For more information about our work with students in temporary housing, contact Jennifer Pringle at jpringle@advocatesforchildren.org.

Guides & Resources

Note: The following resources are in PDF format and will open in a new window. To view PDF files, download the following free software: Get Adobe® Reader®.

For more guides and resources, please visit our resource library.

Tipsheet for Students in Temporary Housing
En Español: Estudiantes que se encuentran en alojamiento temporal
This tipsheet covers the rights, protections, and services are available to students in temporary housing under the McKinney-Vento Act.

Resources for Students in Temporary Housing
En Español: Recursos escolares para estudiantes en viviendas temporales
A list of common school resources for students in temporary housing in NYC.

Enrollment Information for Immigrant Students in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island
(Also available in Spanish: BronxBrooklynManhattanQueens, and Staten Island)
These fact sheets explain how to enroll in a New York City public school in each borough, and resources for immigrant students in temporary housing.

Students in Temporary Housing School-Based Liaison Checklist
All NYC DOE schools must appoint a Students in Temporary Housing School-Based Liaison (SBL). This checklist describes their responsibilities.

NYC Transportation Guide for Students in Temporary Housing
This guide provides information about which students in temporary housing are eligible for busing and MetroCards, how to get parent MetroCards, and who to call for help.

Tips for Navigating Challenging Conversations
This tip sheet provides trauma-sensitive strategies and conversation starters for some of the most common issues schools encounter with students and parents regarding a student’s housing situation.

Policy Work

AFC conducts policy advocacy to increase school stability and expand support for students experiencing homelessness. 

first page of data reportStudent Homelessness in New York City
More than 119,000 New York City students—roughly one in nine—experienced homelessness during the 2022–23 school year. While the recent increase in the number of immigrant families arriving in New York City has brought greater public attention to the issue, student homelessness is not a new phenomenon: 2022–23 marked the eighth consecutive year in which more than 100,000 public school students were identified as homeless. Yet, services that have been put in place to help support these students are under threat, and the situation is becoming more dire as the supports that do exist are stretched thin. 


first page of educational indicators reportEducational Indicators for Students Experiencing Homelessness, 2021-2022
This November 2023 fact sheet summarizes data obtained from the DOE by AFC on more than 88,000 DOE students identified as homeless in 2021–22. Of these students, 30% (more than 26,200 children) were living in City shelters.





first page of data briefStudent Homelessness in New York City
This November 2022 data report shows that, for the seventh consecutive year, more than 100,000 New York City public school students experienced homelessness, a crisis which has now persisted through two Mayoral administrations and four schools Chancellors. Even as total enrollment in City schools fell during the 2021-22 school year, the number of students identified as homeless increased by 3.3%, rising from 101,000 to 104,000.



first page of data brief

Still Disconnected: Persistently Low Attendance Rates for Students in Shelter
This May 2022 data brief highlights alarmingly low attendance rates for students living in homeless shelters and calls on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars towards hiring shelter-based staff who can help ensure students who are homeless get to school every day. AFC's October 2021 brief showed that students in shelter had the lowest attendance rate of any student group from January to June 2021, when most City students were learning remotely some or all of the time. Attendance data from this past fall show that the resumption of full-time in-person instruction in the 2021-22 school year has not addressed the barriers to attendance facing students experiencing homelessness.

first page of sign-on letter30 Organizations Call on NYC to Increase Educational Supports in Shelters
In April 2022, more than 30 organizations released a letter calling on Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks to use federal COVID-19 relief funding specifically designated for students in temporary housing to hire 150 shelter-based Department of Education Community Coordinators. Community Coordinators can provide crucial supports for students in shelter, helping students get to school every day and connecting them with the supports and services they need to be successful in school.

first page of data briefStudent Homelessness in New York City [PDF]
This November 2021 data brief 
showed that more than 101,000 New York City students were identified as homeless during the 2020-2021 school year, a 42% increase since the start of the decade and the sixth consecutive school year that more than 100,000 New York City students experienced homelessness.




first page of recommendationsRecommendations for the Next Administration to Address the Educational Needs of Students Experiencing Homelessness
In November 2021, AFC joined more than 40 organizations in releasing recommendations calling on Mayor-elect Adams to take bold action to address the educational needs of students experiencing homelessness, and to overhaul the educational support system in shelters, starting by hiring 150 shelter-based DOE Community Coordinators, and launching an interagency initiative to tackle the educational barriers these students face.




first page of policy briefDisconnected: The Pandemic's Toll on Attendance for Students in Shelter [PDF]
This October 2021 policy brief documents the pandemic’s heavy toll on attendance for students living in homeless shelters and calls on the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars to overhaul the education support system in shelters, starting with hiring 150 shelter-based DOE community coordinators. While the attendance rates of students in shelter during the pandemic were particularly troubling, barriers to consistent attendance are not new.  In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, more than half of students living in shelter—94% of whom are Black or Hispanic—missed at least one out of every ten school days, and for the first few weeks of the 2021 school year, the average attendance rate of students in shelter was only 73%. 

first page of policy briefDisparities in Attendance During COVID-19 [PDF]
This April 2021 policy brief highlights disparities in school attendance during the pandemic, and calls on the City to invest in an ambitious Education Recovery Plan that ensures all students can receive the academic and social-emotional support they need as they return to school. The attendance provides a snapshot of student engagement during remote and blended learning, making clear that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on marginalized student populations. While absenteeism has risen across the board this year, attendance rates are strikingly low among students living in homeless shelters, particularly at the high school level.

map of NYC students experiencing homelessness 2019-20

New Data Show Number of NYC Students who are Homeless Topped 100,000 for Fifth Consecutive Year 
In December 2020 we posted new data showing that more than 111,000 NYC students approximately one in ten children enrolled in district or charter schools—were identified as homeless during the 2019-20 school year. In the Bronx, approximately one in six students was homeless. The data, which came from the New York State Education Department, show that more than 32,700 students were living in City shelters, while approximately 73,000 were ‘doubled-up’ in temporary shared housing situations.

Gaps in Social Workers for Students Living in Shelters [PDF]
This May 2018 report documents the number of New York City schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters that do not have a social worker focused on this population. AFC’s analysis shows that the Mayor's proposed modest increase in funding falls far short of meeting the need, and calls on the City to double the number of school social workers focused on serving students living in shelters.

Recommendations for Improving School Access and Success for Rising Numbers of Students in Temporary Housing [PDF]
In March 2018, Advocates for Children and Citizens' Committee for Children of New York jointly issued recommendations for expanding support for students experiencing homelessness. The recommendations include establishing high-level Department of Education leadership, expanding the Bridging the Gap school-based social worker program, and hiring DOE social workers to provide intensive supports at shelters to address education-related issues.