New York, like any other big city, is a case study in contradiction. Extreme wealth and inhumane blight can share a block. The Department of Education’s new report—that the number of homeless students in the New York City school system has quadrupled since 2008, from 10,209 to 42,980—is another solemn reminder that for all the talk of the city’s luxuries and cultural appeal, it is still home to massive and inexcusable inequalities.
Housing affordability is an issue that someone like Mayor Bloomberg will fail to address, again and again, because addressing such an issue is not in his DNA. Rent and cost of living prices continue to soar despite an anemic economy. The minimum wage gets you pathetically little. Homelessness is at its highest in NYC since the Great Depression, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Particularly among families, the steady decline in the number of affordable rental apartments has contributed to the surge in homelessness.
And teachers, under attack from Democrats and Republicans alike, are blamed for the academic struggles of students who do not have a comfortable room in which to study when they go home to at night. There is a reason school districts in wealthy areas vastly outperform districts in impoverished areas, or schools like Fort Hamilton High School and New Utrecht High School (cited in the Post story that reported the study) have especially large populations of students without homes. Yes, a motivated homeless student with a motivated teacher can achieve as much as anyone, but the challenge of succeeding in school while knowing that a home is something you can no longer take for granted must be immense. Politicians ensconced in their own bubbles of relative luxury can forget this, or never know it in the first place.