By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
In honor of the nationwide Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness (ICPH) released new tools and research to better inform the public about the food insecurity and homelessness issues in their respective communities.
One of the new tools is an interactive map, which shows a drastic increase in homeless students throughout the country. The map allows anyone to click on any state to see a breakdown of that particular state’s homelessness situation. The map shows the numbers both from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
The ED requires schools to identify students who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Since this requirement went into effect, records have shown a 92 percent increase in child homelessness.
The Queens Tribune spoke with Alexander Tucciarone, the director of communications and external affairs at ICPH; and Kristen MacFarlane, a senior GIS (geographic information systems) analyst, who said homelessness has increased throughout the country.
“Homelessness is a national experience but a local issue,” said MacFarlane. “Our research is meant to shine the light, while also giving concerned citizens the information they need to better understand what homelessness and food insecurity looks like in their neighborhood.”
According to the ICPH, Queens has seen an increase in homeless students. Of the 312,882 students in school districts 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 from 2016-’17, 19,777 were homeless, which is a 12.1 percent increase compared to 2015-’16.
“Homelessness isn’t only those living in homeless shelters or on the streets,” said Tucciarone. “Homelessness is also those in nonstable living situations; those living in someone’s living room or guest room; those bunched up in one room; those sleeping in their cars.”
Tucciarone said the numbers released from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) are not accurate because they don’t reflect homelessness as a whole.
“Our goal is to make sure people that engage in this issue are doing it in the most informed and accurate way possible,” said Tucciarone.
MacFarlane added that it’s important for the community to be informed about what’s going on in their neighborhoods.
“We put out publications and data tools to give research to policy makers and community leaders to act,” said MacFarlane. “This tool is to empower the public to understand homelessness. The understanding begins with studying the numbers and hard facts of these places.”
MacFarlane said an estimated one in five New York City students is experiencing homelessness, as are 1.3 million students across America.
“This is a growing process and we can’t confront it if we don’t understand it,” said MacFarlane. “The data shows homelessness is increasing and it’s the same way in every community. It’s so difficult to say why because there are so many factors.”
Tucciarone said homelessness is a very controversial and sometimes challenging issue.
“This campaign has grown over the years because we’re bringing awareness to these challenges, said Tucciarone. “Every year, we provide different resources and tools but our intent and goals never change.”
The ICPH released a number of other resources during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. “One Issue, Three Counts, One Reality” highlights the numbers provided by HUD versus the accurate numbers once the ICPH incorporates the data findings from the ED. “Food Insecurity & NYC’s Homeless Children” reveals that more than 105,000, or one in 10, students in New York City public schools are homeless, with many of them facing food insecurity. (Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to adequate, healthy food for all members of a household.) “50 State Counts, One Reality” shows that the number of homeless students across the country has nearly doubled during the last decade. “Facing Student Homelessness” is a section in which the ICPH shares conversations with children who are faced with homelessness. And “Student Homelessness & Food Deserts” is a map that explores the overlap between child homelessness and limited access to nutritious foods.
For more information visit https://www.icphusa.org/hunger-homelessness-awareness-2018/.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel