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Like many New Yorkers, I have been increasingly concerned about the city's recent and long-term rise in homelessness. And as an advisory board member at a Queens homeless shelter for the past three years, I have also given much thought to how to address...

Shelters don't cure homelessness. Here's what can make a difference

Like many New Yorkers, I have been increasingly concerned about the city's recent and long-term rise in homelessness. And as an advisory board member at a Queens homeless shelter for the past three years, I have also given much thought to how to address...

Shelters don't cure homelessness. Here's what can make a difference

Like many New Yorkers, I have been increasingly concerned about the city's recent and long-term rise in homelessness. And as an advisory board member at a Queens homeless shelter for the past three years, I have also given much thought to how to address it. While that conversation tends to revolve around housing, a crucial fact is being overlooked: More than half of adults in family shelters do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Without a high school education, these folks will not benefit from the rising minimum wage—which will reach $15 an hour at many city businesses at the end of next year—because most employers won't hire them. While we deal with the immediate concerns regarding the homeless, such as food and shelter, we must also help them build a foundation for the future.

I have pushed hard at my local shelter for high school equivalency training. I even found a college professor who would come to the facility to teach history, one of the five subjects on the test for an equivalency diploma. The shelter thanked me but declined, stating that it could not guarantee participation and did not want to risk wasting the professor's time. After all, attending such a class would be voluntary.

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That is a problem. If the city's goal is to break the cycle of homelessness, shelter residents should have to work toward earning a high school diploma or its equivalent. The city's human services commissioner, Steven Banks, should make this happen.

High school equivalency training and testing is provided for free at a number of adult learning centers sponsored by the city's Department of Education. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest among the residents at the shelter where I am an outside adviser. Perhaps providing transportation and a motivational speech highlighting the benefits in dollars and cents would have made a difference.

While handling families in our shelters requires a holistic approach, for residents lacking a diploma the emphasis should be on systematic test preparation and test-taking on a time line. In doing so, all five subject modules can be taught and students tested one subject per month, bringing the whole process to a conclusion within six months. By breaking down a seemingly overwhelming task into bite-size pieces, the likelihood of success can be greatly enhanced.

Unlike the public at large and perhaps family shelter residents themselves, I believe that a stint at these shelters should be viewed as a chance for a new beginning. With residents' every conceivable need being addressed, including housing by way of a private apartment, food, health care and child care, the time and opportunity are there for gaining skills to enhance a family’s prospects for the future, especially given that the average stay in family shelters is about 12 months and often longer.

One could legitimately argue that any number of factors has landed families in our homeless shelters, but the numbers speak for themselves regarding the lack of a high school diploma among more than half of adults there. Success in life is about the choices we make, the obstacles we overcome and perhaps a little luck. We reap what we sow in our capitalistic society, but one needs the basic tools to compete effectively. Education is the most valuable asset one can possess on the journey toward gainful employment and I am hopeful that the city’s family shelters will make it a priority.

Klea Theoharis is a member of the community advisory board for the Westway family shelter in the East Elmhurst section of Queens.

Like many New Yorkers, I have been increasingly concerned about the city's recent and long-term rise in homelessness. And as an advisory board member at a Queens homeless shelter for the past three years, I have also given much thought to how to address it. While that conversation tends to revolve around housing, a crucial fact is being overlooked: More than half of adults in family shelters do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Without a high school education, these folks will not benefit from the rising minimum wage—which will reach $15 an hour at many city businesses at the end of next year—because most employers won't hire them. While we deal with the immediate concerns regarding the homeless, such as food and shelter, we must also help them build a foundation for the future.

I have pushed hard at my local shelter for high school equivalency training. I even found a college professor who would come to the facility to teach history, one of the five subjects on the test for an equivalency diploma. The shelter thanked me but declined, stating that it could not guarantee participation and did not want to risk wasting the professor's time. After all, attending such a class would be voluntary.

That is a problem. If the city's goal is to break the cycle of homelessness, shelter residents should have to work toward earning a high school diploma or its equivalent. The city's human services commissioner, Steven Banks, should make this happen.

High school equivalency training and testing is provided for free at a number of adult learning centers sponsored by the city's Department of Education. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest among the residents at the shelter where I am an outside adviser. Perhaps providing transportation and a motivational speech highlighting the benefits in dollars and cents would have made a difference.

While handling families in our shelters requires a holistic approach, for residents lacking a diploma the emphasis should be on systematic test preparation and test-taking on a time line. In doing so, all five subject modules can be taught and students tested one subject per month, bringing the whole process to a conclusion within six months. By breaking down a seemingly overwhelming task into bite-size pieces, the likelihood of success can be greatly enhanced.

Unlike the public at large and perhaps family shelter residents themselves, I believe that a stint at these shelters should be viewed as a chance for a new beginning. With residents' every conceivable need being addressed, including housing by way of a private apartment, food, health care and child care, the time and opportunity are there for gaining skills to enhance a family’s prospects for the future, especially given that the average stay in family shelters is about 12 months and often longer.

One could legitimately argue that any number of factors has landed families in our homeless shelters, but the numbers speak for themselves regarding the lack of a high school diploma among more than half of adults there. Success in life is about the choices we make, the obstacles we overcome and perhaps a little luck. We reap what we sow in our capitalistic society, but one needs the basic tools to compete effectively. Education is the most valuable asset one can possess on the journey toward gainful employment and I am hopeful that the city’s family shelters will make it a priority.

Klea Theoharis is a member of the community advisory board for the Westway family shelter in the East Elmhurst section of Queens.

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Publish Date : 24 Şubat 2017 Cuma 04:10

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