This guide to navigating New York City's public services was created with and for families of students living in temporary housing or experiencing homelessness. 

Find answers to common questions below:

 

How do I get emergency housing help?

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

→ Learn More About DHS Services

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, there are domestic violence intake centers open 24/7 in all boroughs and a 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline you can call for help.

→ Learn More About DV Help

What does 'temporarily housed' mean?

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?

Being homeless gives your children extra educational rights. New York State law says that homeless and temporarily housed students have the right: 

  • 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, and

  • to transportation to and from school,

  • as well as other rights under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

 

Can I change my child's school or get transportation?

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

→ Learn More About DHS Services

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 directly to support students in temporary housing.

→ Learn More About DOE Services

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 8 resources for homeless families?

We asked New York City families who have experienced homelessness to rank the services they found most useful when entering shelter or temporary housing. Here are their top eight resources: 

Access NYC →

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

Access HRA →

Apply for SNAP, 
Cash Assistance, 
Medicaid, and more.

FoodHelp NYC →

Find a local 
food pantry.

NYC Well →

Connect to self-care and mental health resources.

SafeLink Wireless →

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

Notify NYC →

Sign up for citywide text message 
emergency alerts.

Homebase →

Get help with homelessness prevention services.

Floating Hospital → 

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.  

What documents do I need to get benefits?

Use the Document Checklist to learn which documents you should bring to agency visits. 

 

Which City agencies can help my family?

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

HOW HRA CAN HELP

Cash, Childcare, DV Help, Food, Health & Wellness, Housing, Immigrant Services, Jobs & Training 

Learn More About HRA Services

HOW DOE CAN HELP

Education, Food, Health & Wellness

Learn More About DOE Services

HOW DHS CAN HELP

Housing

Learn More About DHS Services

HOW DYCD CAN HELP

Education, Housing, Jobs & Training

Learn More About DYCD Services

HOW DOHMH CAN HELP

Childcare

Learn More About DOHMH Services

HOW ACS CAN HELP

Childcare, Health & Wellness

Learn More About ACS Services

The Benefits Navigator was designed with temporarily housed parents and frontline staff, in a collaboration between the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, NYC Department of Education, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, NYC Department of Homeless Services, NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, NYC Human Resources Administration, and the Public Policy Lab, a nonprofit innovation team for government. Support was provided by Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.

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