There is an interesting pictorial story about homeless schoolchildren in Tuesday’s NY Times. It covers two kids, a boy and a girl.
The story is written by Eliza Shapiro, a young woman who against all the odds managed to land a position with the Times, strangely enough where her mother has been employed for decades. What a weird coincidence in our meritocratic days!
It is told in slide-show format. I won’t get into the details (you should read it for yourself, it won’t take long, although you do need a subscription), but if I had to describe the tone I would say, paraphrasing Yoda, that “the Feelz is strong in young Shapiro.”
Some hard data and disturbing details did break through, however.
The first was in the headline: “114,000 Students in NYC Are Homeless.” This statistic includes children living in shelters and a larger amount who are “doubled-up” living in apartments with relatives or friends. The number represents a 70% increase over the past ten years, so clearly the city is doing a horrible job of ameliorating this condition, plainly failing to keep children by the thousands out of such a dreadful existence.
The article describes some of the dreadfulness in the cases of Darnell, an 8-year old black boy, and Sandivel, a 10-year old Hispanic girl.
Their families are constantly on the move, as living arrangements fall apart and must be put back together. There are no fathers; both mothers say they fled abusive relationships. Sandivel’s mother doesn’t work. The article says she is supporting her 5 children on her “savings,” which are running out. Darnell’s mom has a job. She is 35 years old and has 8 children, 5 of whom have been taken away from her by the state.
The kids have shuffled through schools as well as homes. On the day of the story they are taking very long, interborough subways rides to their distant elementary schools. They will retrace the commutes in the evening.
They all try to manage as best they can. School is a refuge for Sandivel, but Darnell has behavioral issues and a learning disability. He fights, cries, sulks and only comes alive at computer time and for football practice. If there is a pipeline to prison, he’s in it.
Less than 60% of homeless children eventually graduate from New York’s notoriously substandard schools. The futures of Darnell and Sandivel, their brothers and sisters, and all of the hundred thousand children, are bleak.
And the city has absolutely no solution to their plight. Ms. Shapiro draws the picture and makes no criticisms. (There is a plea for more school guidance counselors specifically for the homeless pupils.) It’s depressing and meant to be.
New York City is not — repeat, not — going through economic hard times. It is thriving, has a great tax base and a liberal political tradition. It offers many benefits to the struggling in order to help them get back on their feet.
It is also crowded, more so than at the end of the last century. Residential housing, however, has not kept up with demand for a myriad of reasons.
Actually, as a so-called “sanctuary city” which welcomes people “living in the shadows,” New York seems to be, as the huge upsurge in the homeless children population demonstrates, conducting its own version of the Cloward-Piven Strategy.
The city is overloading its own safety-net system to the breaking point and dramatically increasing the amount of suffering and dysfunction among the innocent, all for the satisfaction of a progressive pose.
There are other responses that could be drawn. I’m curious to see what the comments section below delivers.