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This is a guide to navigating New York City’s public services. It was made with and for families of students living in temporary housing or experiencing homelessness and the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Students in Temporary Housing (STH).

Find answers to common questions below:

How do I get immediate housing support?

If you’re at risk of getting evicted or need help to make ends meet, Homebase offers emergency grants, information about public benefits, and other services to keep you in your home.

If your family needs a room in a shelter, you must visit the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) center in the Bronx. This is the City’s intake center for families with children who need emergency housing.

If you’re experiencing domestic violence, you can call NYC’s 24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-621- 4673 or TTY: 866-604-5350 if you’re hearing impaired. You can also call 311 and ask for the hotline. Call 911 if you are in danger and need immediate help.

If you’re between the ages of 14-24 years old and need immediate shelter, you can visit a drop-in center. Drop-in centers also have other essentials like food, clothing, and showers.

What does ‘temporarily housed’ mean?

Temporarily housed is a term that can apply to a wide range of experiences. It can describe doubled up living arrangements, meaning you live with a relative or another person because of financial hardship. It can also mean you’re living in a shelter. Many students in temporary housing are living in unstable housing, not experiencing homelessness in a shelter. Temporarily housed students also have extra educational rights.

If a student is living in any of the following situations, they are considered temporarily housed:

  • in a shelter, transitional shelter, or motel,
  • in a car, bus, or train,
  • in a park, a public place, or an abandoned building, or
  • doubled up with friends or relatives because you can’t find or afford housing.

Does housing status change my child’s schooling?

Students in temporary housing can continue going to the same school and receive a new school bus route or a MetroCard to get there. They can also transfer to a new school closer to where they’re living and are entitled to immediate enrollment. Students in temporary housing do not need to show proof of residency in order to get help.

By law, temporarily housed students in New York State have the following rights:

  • to continue attending the school they were last enrolled in
  • to attend their new zoned school
  • to not be denied immediate enrollment just because they lack documentation
  • to receive transportation to and from school
  • to receive free school meals
  • additional rights under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Can my child get transportation to school or enroll in a school closer to shelter?

If you’re living in a shelter, a family assistant or case manager will help you and your children with school enrollment and transportation.

If you’re not living in a shelter or there is no family assistant in your shelter, there are regional managers who work with schools to support students in temporary housing.

If you have other questions about your child’s schooling options, contact a Family Welcome Center (FWC). An enrollment counselor can discuss your situation and recommend next steps.

How can I feed my family?

If you need food immediately, find out where to pick up free meals across the city by texting ”FOOD” or ”COMIDA” to 877-877. You can also use the Get Food NYC map to locate a variety of free food locations across the five boroughs. Or request an emergency food delivery.

If you need ongoing food help, use Access NYC to find out what benefits you’re eligible for. “Food stamps,” or SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides money for food.

Parent Tips

“The library is my best friend. You go and you get on the laptops and do some research.”

— Cindy, mother of 3

“Make sure you get the person’s name you were talking to in case you ever need to go back to the conversation.”

— Anthony, father of 5


What are the top resources for homeless families?

We asked New York City families to tell us what services they found most helpful when entering shelter or temporary housing. Here are their top resources:

See if you’re eligible for 30+ citywide programs.

Apply for and manage SNAP, Cash Assistance, Medicaid, and other benefits.

Find a local food pantry.

Connect to self-care and mental health resources.

Sign up for citywide text message emergency alerts.

See if you’re eligible for a free cell phone and service.

Get help with homelessness prevention services.

Receive free health services regardless of insurance or immigration status.

Parent Tips

“There’s a lot of power in photography. I take photos of all of my applications to avoid a ‘he said, she said’ situation.”

— Rosa, mother of 1

“Every [paperwork] that I get from welfare, from the shelter, from the school, I put in a folder away from the kids. If it’s not in documentation, it never happened.”

— Iris, mother of 2


What public benefits are available to me?

Browse free services and benefits provided by New York City agencies. 

Which NYC agencies can help my family?

Learn about New York City agencies and the services they provide.

How HRA Can Help:
Cash, Child Care, Domestic Violence Help, Food, Health, Housing, Immigrant Services, Work

Learn More About HRA Services

How DOE Can Help:
Education, Food, Health

Learn More About DOE Services

How DHS Can Help:

Learn More About DHS Services

How DYCD Can Help:
Education, Housing, Work

Learn More About DYCD Services

How DOHMH Can Help:
Child Care, Health

Learn More About DOHMH Services

How ACS Can Help:
Child Care, Health

Learn More About ACS Services
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