A steep spike in youth homelessness since 2008 is putting a strain on the New York City public school system.
Data recently reported to the federal government shows the number of homeless pupils in city schools has risen by a stunning 400 percent, from about 10,000 to more than 40,000, since the start of the most recent economic recession.
The school homelessness numbers stand in stark contrast to official stats reported by the New York City Department of Homeless Services.
That agency reports about 8,000 school-aged kids are classified as homeless. DHS uses a definition of homelessness that only includes populations in city shelters.
The federal data on student homelessness, which schools are required to collect, includes students who don't have permanent houses or apartments, but live outside city shelters.
"I think it is important to emphasize that the numbers in shelters are going in the right direction. The number of applications are down. The numbers in shelter are down from six months ago," said Seth Diamond, Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services.
"That is an unfortunate bit of political spin from the Bloomberg administration," said Patrick Markee, policy analyst for New York City's Coalition for the Homeless. Markee has suggested City Hall is chronically underestimating the city's homelessness problem.
Adam Bucko, co-founder of Reciprocity Foundation, a non-profit offering career and life-coaching for homeless youth, said the dismal economy is clearly resulting in more broken families and more homeless young people seeking services.
"I am seeing more and more students who come to us hungry. They don't have money for food. They don't have money for MetroCards. I wasn't seeing that before."
Bucko says the staggering increase in homeless students will require a sizable response from the government and non-profit sectors.
"People usually say we need more affordable housing. It's true, we need that. But that is only half the equation," he said.
"We also need places that can help people heal -- that can convince them they have something within themselves."