[Marxism] Rural New York poverty
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Mar 8 07:46:58 MDT 2009
(From my home county newspaper. If this is happening now, then the
country is truly in a depression.)
For many homeless students, schools substitute for homes
Number of homeless kids shoots up 29% in 2 years
By Steve Israel
March 08, 2009 6:00 AM
More than 1,500 students in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties are
homeless, according to the state. The numbers — up a startling 29
percent over the past two years because of a worsening economy and
improved reporting — mean that kindergartners and high school seniors
from Newburgh to Monroe are crammed in shelters and motel rooms, some
crawling with roaches.
They crash on bare mattresses, couches or in the spare rooms of friends
and relatives. They often don't have enough food to eat, clothes to stay
warm or soap and toothpaste to keep clean.
Some children even live in tents and cars. They come to school smelling
of campfire smoke, exhaust fumes and worse.
"I just feel like crying sometimes," says 14-year-old Brittany Curry,
who's lived in six Sullivan County motels, shelters and apartments in
four school districts in her short life.
As the recession grows, so does the number of kids like Brittany, who
now lives with her family in a warm apartment in Roscoe.
But the 1,561 homeless students accounted for in 2007-08 do not begin to
paint a complete picture of the problem that one educator calls "so
huge, it's heartbreaking."
It's a problem that has its roots in the growing number of foreclosures,
lost jobs and the lack of a safety net for things like apartment
In short, so many people are living on thin ice, just one misstep, and
the ice cracks.
Many homeless liaisons — and every school district has at least one —
believe the problem is much greater than reported.
"I think we don't even touch the tip of the iceberg," says Jaime
Latimer, a student support specialist with Sullivan County BOCES, who,
like most liaisons, relies on word of mouth from teachers, social
workers and nurses to determine who is homeless.
Many kids are embarrassed to admit they're homeless, or only consider
homelessness to be living in a cardboard box.
Plus, the number of homeless kids reflects only those children who are
old enough to be in school. If a child is less than 5 years old and
sleeping in a shelter with his brothers and sisters, he isn't counted as
"And because of the recession, next year's numbers will really be
eye-popping," says Monroe-Woodbury homeless liaison Ed Wallace.
He points out that because the definition of homelessness is so broad,
it could technically include a child of divorced parents staying in a
The government considers a child homeless when he is without a regular
place to sleep each night, as defined by the federal McKinney-Vento
Homeless Assistance Act.
Regardless of the exact numbers, no one denies that more kids are
suffering because they're homeless.
In affluent Monroe-Woodbury, the number of homeless kids jumped from two
in 2006-07 to 41 in 2007-08.
In Valley Central, which covers the rural and suburban Montgomery area,
there are at least 159 homeless kids, compared with 115 the prior year.
And in Monticello, which draws urban and rural Sullivan kids, the number
of homeless students nearly doubled, from 66 to 119.
"It's just crazy, and it's getting worse," says Bernie Dykstra, homeless
liason for Port Jervis schools. Dykstra saw seven homeless families in
his office on one day alone last month.
Officials attribute part of the rise to more aggressive accounting on
the part of the state and the schools.
No matter where the kids live — in a private
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