Legal Aid Society


Victory: LAS Secures WiFi for Thousands of Students in Homeless Shelters

The COVID-19 crisis forced all New Yorkers to rely on technology in unprecedented ways, none more profound than school-aged children. As the City moved overnight to remote learning, it failed to address the learning needs of school-children living in City shelters who did not have reliable internet.

Aaron Morris, a Brooklyn high school student, was living in a shelter during the pandemic, and because of connectivity issues missed many classes as the shift began. Legal Aid was able to help secure a working device from DOE for Aaron, but broader systemic change was necessary.

Aaron and his father O’Brien joined Legal Aid’s and pro bono partner Milkbanks’ successful legal challenge in E.G. v. The City of New York which has resulted in the City installing wireless internet in over 240 shelters housing more than 11,000 school-aged children.

With the installation now complete, WiFi capacity in shelters helps bridge the digital divide well beyond the pandemic. Reliable access to the internet grants families residing in shelters access to resources and public benefits and gives them the ability to search for permanent housing and employment well into the future.

“They helped thousands of other students get an education during this pandemic,” Aaron said. “[When] my shelter was finally wired for my internet access… my grades skyrocketed from a C average to an A average.”

Aaron and O’Brien tell their story in a new video created by The NY Bar Foundation, an organization unwavering in its support of The Legal Aid Society.

Watch the full piece below.