Praxis Connection Review is an online journal that highlights collaboration, innovation, and impact through churches in NYC.
God’s Treasures: NYC Homeless Students
by Chris Troy
God’s Treasures, our neighbor’s children, are homeless. Yes God’s treasures! Those precious lives of children created in God’s image full of unlimited gifts and abilities. Loved by God and created to do good works!
Tragically the recently released report by the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homeless, titled On The Map: The Atlas of Student Homelessness in New York City, notes the following:
- More than 127,000 children — 1 in 8 NYC students — have been homeless in the past five years
- In 2014-15, there were 82,500 homeless students.
To put these facts into perspective:
- 127,000 students is more than the Boston & Seattle school systems combined.
- 82,500 homeless students would fill Met Life Stadium to capacity.
A Snapshot of God’s Treasures shows:
- 52% Hispanic
- 34% Black
- 36% PreK-2nd Grade
- 42% 3rd-8th Grade
- 22% 9-12 Grade
- 45% spent 3 or more years homeless
- 20% of these students can be found in the Bronx Districts 9 & 10
Districts with Highest Homeless %
Eight School Districts had 13% or more homeless students (Districts 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 16 & 23):
- Highbridge/Concourse (9) — 6,899 — 18%
- Central Harlem (5) — 2,131 — 16%
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (16) — 1,267 — 15.2%
- Brownsville (23) — 1,617 — 15.2%
- Fordham (10) — 8,557 — 14.5%
The graduation rate for students who have been homeless is 52%:
- Brownsville — 32.8%
- Hunts Point — 38.9%
- Bushwick — 40%
- Bedford- Stuyvesant — 42%
- Woodlawn — 48%
I urge you to take a look at this report.
The report provides details on the schools, numbers of students, and the locations of the shelters where some of God’s Treasures live.
This report is a sobering look at the plight of our neighbors and the adversity that God’s Treasures endure.
It’s heartbreaking, a modern day lamentation of our city.
It’s a further call to rebuild the walls & fabric of our city.
It’s also overwhelming.
Central Harlem is where I live and I see the homeless situation growing worse by the day.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and become paralyzed by this growing epidemic.
However, we are called to be Salt & Light and to Love Our Neighbors.
Since the word “praxis” means “faith worked out in action” (“Book of Acts” in Greek means “Book of Praxis”) below are some possible ways to act out of love & faith to our neighbors.
Practical Next Steps
In Noel Castellanos’s superb book, Where the Cross Meets the Streets, he outlines a framework for Christian Community Development that offers us guidance on how to address the plight of God’s Treasures.
This framework begins with an Incarnational approach of a ministry of proximity with four key ministry activities:
1) Proclamation & Formation
2) Demonstration of Compassion
3) Restoration & Development
4) Confrontation of Injustice
With this as our framework here are some practical suggestions for us to wrap our arms around God’s Treasures:
Proclamation and Formation
A core function of the church is the teaching of God’s Word and the spiritual formation of each believer into likeness of Christ. (2 Cor. 3:18) These are our foundation as we take action in the next three key ministry activities.
Demonstration of Compassion
After you and some members of your church review the Atlas:
1) Identify the shelters & schools near you.
2) This is a big problem so consider reaching out to other churches in your neighborhood to collaborate on how you can love & serve together.
3) Reach out to the shelter or school nearby and ask how you can serve. Praxis Connections has template agreements for you to use for any school partnership.
4) If your community does not have this problem, reach out to churches that are in the neighborhoods hardest hit and see if you can partner with them. If you are unsure of who to contact, please contact Praxis Connections and we can connect you. Email Chris Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activities could include supplies, mentoring, tutoring, and meals.
Restoration & Development
While we need to love God’s Treasures as individuals created in God’s image, we also need to address the problem systemically.
Families are on the street for a variety of reasons — but the lack of affordable housing is a leading reason for God’s Treasure’s being homeless. We need more affordable housing. Churches have a strong history in our city of housing development. I have met with several churches lately that are working on developing more housing. Leveraging such a rich history of community development, let’s explore how we can build more affordable housing to stem the tide of homelessness. Given the scale of the issue, collaboration will be key.
Confrontation of Injustice
We need to stand up on behalf of God’s Treasures, our neighbors.
We stand up by addressing the systems that create injustice — injustice that breaks God’s heart and harms God’s Treasures — by turning our lament into a call for our leaders to build more affordable housing in our city and protect God’s Treasures!
There are several ministries, such as Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, that can provide leadership in this area. Together we can bring our collective voices to bear on a city that rightly prides itself on how it reduced crime but sadly has 82,500 homeless school children.
In the spirit of Nehemiah, let’s rebuild the walls of our city to love and house God’s Treasures!
I hope that this report and exhortation is helpful as we all seek the peace and prosperity of our city. Please let me know if I can assist you in any way.