by Habiba Alcindor
The New York Post cited a statistic that more than 1.5 million public school students across the country experienced homelessness at some point during 2017-2018.
The Floating Hospital has always centered its healthcare mission around impoverished children and their families.
Recently this mission has grown in importance due to the rising number of school-age children experiencing homelessness.
In New York City alone, some 114,000 children lack adequate housing. Across America, families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Typically, they are a young single mother with two or more children.
Approximately 40 percent of these families have fled a domestic violence situation; others are casualties of the affordable housing crisis, which has made it increasingly difficult for families to afford rent in gentrifying neighborhoods, even when one or both parents work full-time.
The effect on the students
Homelessness takes a real toll on students, who often find themselves uprooted from their community. They’re faced with either a lengthy commute to school from a distant shelter, or the need to transfer to a new school. Tardiness and absenteeism are common for students who lack a stable home environment.
Some students are coming to school traumatized by having survived domestic violence; the incarceration, addiction or death of a parent; a natural disaster, or other emotionally devastating event that resulted in the loss of their home. The stigma of being homeless can also target these students for bullying.
In 2018, the Department of Education asked The Floating Hospital’s health education team to travel across the city to schools with high percentages of homeless students. While there, they taught topics such as bullying, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, in addition to sexual health and personal hygiene.
Health education is one way The Floating Hospital connects with homeless students, as well as their families. And we do so to prevent intergenerational cycles of poverty, homelessness and poor health.
We’re here to ensure that even in the midst of upheaval, parents have a place to bring their infants and children to receive immunizations, dental cleanings and other services that establish a baseline of health in the important early years of life.
Indeed, it’s a small help to a small number of the 1.5 million students in America facing homelessness. But, there’s lots more to do.
Starting in 1866, The Floating Hospital is the largest provider of healthcare to homeless families. We provide free and secure transport to and from over 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.
The Floating Hospital operates a main clinic in Long Island City. We have satellite clinics at shelters, public housing, and assessment centers throughout the city.