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Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life

Story: Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life

There are more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression. This is one of their stories.

Andrea Elliott’s five-part series documenting the life of an 11-year-old girl named Dasani, published today by the The New York Times, is a heart-wrenching story of childhood homelessness. You should take the time to read in its entirety here.

What it says: The Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is central to Dasani’s story. It is there that the spunky girl bearing the weight of her family’s responsibilities finds a measure of security. Principal Paula Holmes and teacher Faith Hester are Dasani’s anchors, even after her family moves away from the decrepit shelter close to the school.

“To be suspended is to be truly homeless,” Elliott writes.

The story points to the myriad additional difficulties that homeless students face at school, from being unable to wash their uniforms to the special jeers hurled at them by peers who know they live in homeless shelters. And there are a lot of those students:

“Their numbers have risen above anything in the city’s modern history, to a staggering 22,091 this month. If all of the city’s homeless children were to file into Madison Square Garden for a hockey game, more than 4,800 would not have a seat.”

Why it matters: The piece also broaches the larger issue of the resource gaps that still exist across the school system. Elliott notes how Hester spent $1,000 of her own money on classroom technology—something teachers do all over the city, though many schools are able to provide those high-quality resources through their own fundraising.

For the Susan S. McKinney Secondary School, the last 12 years have meant fewer teachers and cuts to after school programs as enrollment declined and budgets shrunk. As a charter school moves in, Dasani’s school building reflects the shifting composition of the city’s public school system. And it’s a reminder that for many students like Dasani, school really is “everything — the provider of meals, on-the-spot nursing care, security and substitute parenting.”

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