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Boston Public Schools to Provide Additional Resources to Students Experiencing Homelessness, Launches New BPS Opportunity Youth Department

FY18 Budget Proposal includes investments in key support services for homeless youth

Boston, MA — Tuesday, January 31, 2017— Boston Public Schools (BPS) today announced that its proposed FY18 budget will include significant investments in initiatives designed to give specialized services to students experiencing homelessness. With a targeted approach to closing opportunity and achievement gaps, a $1 million investment will benefit approximately 3,000 BPS students identified by the district as experiencing homelessness.

“For students experiencing homelessness and added barriers to success, additional resources and services provide them better opportunities to thrive,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Boston Public Schools are taking an added step in investing in programs that are critical in working toward eliminating access and achievement gaps for the most vulnerable students in our city.”

Boston Public Schools has created the new Opportunity Youth Department under the Office of Social Emotional Learning and Wellness (SELWELL) to support the implementation of wellness initiatives, including the Homeless Education Resource Network (HERN), which aids schools in developing a program framework that will best suit their homeless students’ needs.

“I am thankful for this important investment from Mayor Walsh,” BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang said. “With students experiencing homelessness facing serious challenges outside of the classroom, this investment allows us to better support young people in reaching their academic successes.”

Schools will have the ability to decide how their portion of funding is spent to effectively and efficiently support their individual student populations. They will do so under the guidance of the Opportunity Youth Department and HERN to support services and resources that have been proven to be most impactful. In addition, BPS will provide enhanced training for teachers, aides, and administration and assist at the school-site level to ensure that students experiencing homelessness have individualized resources and support to learn successfully in the classroom.

HERN connects students experiencing homelessness with essential resources, such as transportation, mentoring, tutoring, enrichment programming, and social service organizations that assist with food, clothing, and shelter.

"I'm so grateful that Mayor Walsh is investing in the future of children, especially those experiencing homelessness,” said Boston City Councilor-At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George. “I'll be a partner in directing these new resources to the classroom and the school community. School is a critical source of stability for children experiencing homelessness. This is a great step to improve their academic outcomes and their lives."

"Our students who are experiencing homelessness face many unique barriers to learning. These students deserve and are in dire need of greater wrap around services to support their stabilization, health, scholastic, and life success,” said Boston City Councilor-At-Large Ayanna Pressley. “I am pleased the Administration and the Boston Public Schools recognize this and are doing something about it while the City simultaneously continues the work necessary to end homelessness for all Boston residents."

The BPS Opportunity Youth Department, created this school year, oversees the district’s Homeless Education Resource Network, Home and Hospital Tutoring, and Supervisors of Attendance units, with the goal of ensuring all students are thriving academically, socially, and emotionally.

“The Opportunity Youth Department will increase collaboration, resource sharing, and communication between the units that serve our most vulnerable students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Social Emotional Learning and Wellness Amalio Nieves. “For example, when we see a student with attendance issues, it often reflects on other crises in the child’s life, such as medical issues or housing instability.”

In December 2016, BPS and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) launched a pilot initiative to track and share targeted information about students experiencing homelessness, which was made possible through a mutual data sharing agreement. Involved parties are now able to confidentially exchange student-specific information that will provide insight into the students' engagement levels and potential target areas for support. This partnership seeks to serve approximately 2,000 students attending the Dearborn STEM Academy, Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, Burke High School, Orchard Gardens K-8 School, Winthrop Elementary, and the King K-8 School.