By Ben Chapman
April 18, 2019
One in ten students enrolled in city schools are homeless — but Mayor de Blasio won’t pay for social workers who’d make a huge difference those needy kids’ lives, local politicians charge.
De Blasio has yanked $13.9 million in the city’s upcoming budget that funded 69 social workers who help homeless kids deal with trauma, complete their schoolwork and get to class on time. If he doesn’t provide the funding, they’ll lose their jobs.
In March, 15 groups who work with children and the homeless called on de Blasio to restore the money in his $92 billion budget — unveiled in February — which is the biggest in the city’s history, Now 35 city council members have joined the push, with all of them signing a letter delivered to the mayor on Wednesday that encourages him to fund the needed social workers.
“Students experiencing homelessness need more support from our city, not less,” according to the note sent by City Council Education Committee Chairman Mark Treyger and General Welfare Committee Chairman Steve Levin, both Democrats from Brooklyn.
“We urge you to restore the $13.9 million,” the letter continues. Treyger, a former city teacher, said the Bridging the Gap social workers, who work in schools with high numbers of students living in shelters, are essential to homeless kids’ success.
“This must be our top priority, to help our must vulnerable students,” Treyger said.
“The homelessness crisis is extending into the classroom,” he added. “These children are experiencing trauma.”
There were 38,000 students living in shelters and 114,000 total public students identified as homeless in the 2017-18 school year, according to city figures. That’s up 66% since 2011 and is the largest number of all time.
Treyger, Levin and the 33 City Council members who signed onto their letter want de Blasio to renew the funding that pays for Bridging the Gap social workers.
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They also want him to increase the number of those social workers — who earn roughly $74,000 per year on average — from 69 to 100, and add five clinical supervisors, which they estimate will cost $5 million.
In addition, they ask the mayor to dedicate another $500,000 to establish an education support center at the city’s PATH shelter intake center, which currently has no such facility.
The demands are identical to those presented in March by a group of advocacy organizations including the The Legal Aid Society, Women In Need and Advocates for Children of New York.
Advocates for Children of New York Policy Director Randi Levine said she was pleased to see local politicians pressuring de Blasio to provide funding for homeless students.
“The mayor must not only maintain the Bridging the Gap social worker program, but expand it, given the thousands of students living in shelter who do not yet have access to this important support,” Levine said.
Representatives for de Blasio didn’t respond to to the City Council letter.
In an appearance on NY1′s Inside City Hall in March, de Blasio said he’s not removing the money from the budget — but he’s not sure if he’ll use it to pay for homeless kids’ social workers.
“We’re not going to reduce the amount of money,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to use the money.”