By Kallan Arkeder SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)–Homeless youth are on the rise in Syracuse, according to the New York State Department of Education. Nearly 2,000 out of the 20,000 students in Syracuse are homeless and there are 140,000 homeless students across New York. About five percent of students in New York are homeless. Whereas in Syracuse, ten percent of students are homeless.
The Syracuse City School District was recently allocated a $145,000 grant from the state to support their homeless students. The Syracuse School Board announced they are using $94,000 from the school’s budget to provide homeless students with meals, school supplies, clothes, health care, tutors, and transportation needs next year.
“We do have a homeless student population,” Syracuse City School District McKinney-Vento Liason Deb Montroy said. “We have programs set for them to try and help them out. We provide them with all their meals when they are at school and offer them supplies for school.”
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that requires schools to provide educational benefits to homeless students. The law defines homelessness as “a person who is sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” The schools identify students as homeless through this definition and if their “residence is not fixed, regular, and adequate it is considered a homeless situation.”
“Families will say they are living with another relative because they don’t want to tell anyone they are homeless,” Montroy said. “A lot of students are couch surfing and moving from one bed to the next.”
The district goes by what families report, and only the students that report themselves as homeless are eligible for the McKinney-Vento benefits. A lot of families don’t consider themselves homeless because family households have changed over the years.
“There are many people that are staying with a grandparent, staying with a cousin or aunt,” Booth House Shelter Director Mithila Hasan said. “We’ve seen that more over the years where it’s not directly a mother or a father that is taking care of a kid. Or mothers are staying with their mothers or another family member.”
Hasan has been working for the Booth House shelter for over 20 years and explains how the majority of the kids she sees in the shelter are runaway youth.
“Probably I would say about 70 percent is runaway kids,” Hasan said. “Homeless kids typically if they are completely homeless is because their family is also homeless. So they are either couch surfing as a family, their family is in shelter, and so then the family determines that maybe that for their kids booth house is a little bit more suitable than a family shelter.”
Hasan works with the Syracuse City School District regularly to check students attendance, grades and also to take referrals from the schools. Despite the schools providing after-school programs, specialists, and other services, Hasan doesn’t think the schools are being supportive enough.
“I don’t think it’s enough,” Hasan said. “City schools are overpopulated, underfunded so I don’t think it’s enough. But any strides to do better is great.”
However, the schools see it as they can only support students that come forward and want help.
“All we can do is try and make these kids feel safe and help them when they ask for help,” Syracuse Social Worker Kim Vargas said.