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Keeping Track: Using Data to Serve Homeless Children and Families

Last month, CCC hosted the premiere of our newest Keeping Track of New York City’s Children databook. In preparation for this event, we participated in a number of discussions with experts from the child-serving community in various NYC communities about how data and KT are important tools in their work with children and families. The following are excerpts from our discussions with one of the panelists from the event, Raysa Rodriguez. Raysa is the Vice President for Policy and Planning at Women In Need, Inc  (WIN).

1. How is data used to inform policy and practice in your work at WIN?

WIN has been providing shelter and housing for women and children for over three decades. Today, we have 10 family shelters across the city and 239 units of supportive housing, which serve over 4,500 individuals per night and over 10,000 individuals per year. As a shelter provider, WIN relies on data to inform service delivery and to develop protective factors for the children and families we serve.

For example, 30 percent of adults eligible to work are already connected to work when they enter our shelter. Given what we know about the link between economic security and homelessness, we aim to build the income of those already employed and to connect those who are unemployed but eligible to work with employment. To this end, WIN provides intensive employment services to adults that include resume writing, interviewing skills and online job searches. In this way, we’re able to connect individuals with employers that are aligned with their skills and experiences.

2. In what ways is Keeping Track a useful tool in informing your work with children and families? 

The homelessness crisis in New York City is complex and results from several social issues related to poverty, economic security, health, and education. This intersection of issues requires a comprehensive policy approach towards homelessness that both prevents it and effectively responds to it.

At WIN we start with shelter, providing families with a safe, private and clean temporary home. Once shelter is in place, however, there is so much effort invested to ensure the comprehensive needs of families are met in client-centered ways that are truly aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness. The wide-ranging data in CCC’s Keeping Track is an incredible resource that can greatly inform such efforts and lead to positive child and family outcomes.

3. WIN operates two of its largest family shelters in Brownsville, serving over 400 families and about 1,000 children. How does the data in Keeping Track illustrate the challenges facing families served by WIN in this community? 

The Brownsville section of Brooklyn is a perfect example of a community where children and families are impacted by a multitude of risk factors that contribute to housing instability. According to the data in Keeping Track, Brownsville ranks 5th amongst the city’s 59 community districts in the number of families entering the shelter system, with 1 out of every 100 Brownsville families entering shelter in 2014.

Lack of housing is not the only reason why Brownsville families become homeless. In fact, Brownsville is more affordable when compared to the rest of the city; Brownsville has the second lowest median monthly rent. However, rent is still unaffordable for the 40% of Brownsville residents living below the poverty line. When taking into account other risk factors at hand such as the high rate of single-female headed households (72% vs 45% citywide) and poor educational outcomes, it is clear that there several contributing factors to the homeless issues in this community.

4. In what way does this community level data help you to better meet the needs of children and families?

Keeping Track illustrates how Brownsville graduation rates are the lowest of all city school districts – according to the data, only 36% of Brownsville students graduate compared to 64.2% citywide, 14.4% of students score proficient on ELA state exams (compared to 28.4% in NYC) and 15.5% on Math (compared to 34.2% in NYC). Brownsville ranks 30th out of the 32 City school districts on state exam scores.

Recognizing the correlation between educational outcomes and long-term economic security, WIN uses data to focus its educational services for children and youth. WIN’s shelters provide services for school-aged children, like homework help, tutoring and mentoring to support their educational needs. For younger children, we provide onsite therapeutic child care services and also refer families to local city subsidized programs.

It’s important to note that here is an area where the data illustrates an opportunity where we can actually tap into existing community resources in Brownsville. The Keeping Track data show that 63.8% of Brownsville children are already in early childhood programs, pointing to greater access to early childhood education services compared to the rest of the city.

You can explore the data on Keeping Track Online which allows you to create custom maps and charts to better understand the needs of children citywide, across the five boroughs and throughout the 59 community districts.

You can learn more about WIN by viewing their web site here.

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