Back to school, but no pencils? No notebooks? No backpacks?


This fall, thousands of school-aged children living in city shelters will return to school without backpacks, notebooks or pencils. Almost half are in the Bronx.

In partnership with the Manhattan-based Coalition for the Homeless, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel is collecting school supplies as part of “Project: Back to School,” a drive to assist those children who already have enough to worry about when it comes to their situation at home.

“No child should go without supplies based upon their living situation,” Engel said in a statement. “As a former schoolteacher, it is particularly close to my heart.”

David Giffen, executive director for homeless coalition, recently told The Riverdale Press the organization would work to get the materials in the hands of students before the first day of school. Through the donation, Giffen wants students to feel involved, and that they have community support as they begin a new academic year.

“They have to deal with the stigma of being labeled a shelter kid by their schoolmates,” Giffen said.

“One thing we could do for them is allow them to come (to) class prepared.”

There also are other ways residents can help with the project. Volunteers could sort supplies and stuff backpacks, donate to help purchase supplies, or host a drive for supplies, according to the homeless coalition’s website.

During the 2015-16 school year, the number of homeless students rose by 15 percent to nearly 33,000, according to a 2017 report from the city’s Independent Budget Office. Nearly 14,000 of those students live in the borough.

Nationally, families spend an average of $108 on school supplies, stated a 2016 survey from the National Retail Federation.

Northwest Bronx residents can drop off donations at Engel’s office, located at 3655 Johnson Ave., until Friday, Aug. 25 between 9 a.m. to 5 pm. Engel also is accepting donations at his office on 177 Dreiser Loop.

Created in 1981, the homeless coalition advocates and provides support services for families. Last year, the organization collected more than 4,000 new backpacks filled with supplies for students.

Insurance company AIG, Huntington Learning Center and United Federation of Teachers are some of the programming partners involved in the effort, according to the homeless coalition’s website.