Facing Rising Student Homelessness, VOA-GNY Kicks Off Annual Operation Backpack® Campaign to Provide School Supplies to Students in Shelters


Today, Volunteers of America-Greater New York announced the launch of our 21st annual Operation Backpack® campaign. The program works to connect every child living in a New York City homeless shelter with a new backpack and the grade-specific school supplies they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Family homelessness in New York City is on the rise due to the end of the pandemic eviction moratorium, the arrival of thousands of asylum-seekers, and skyrocketing rent prices. As a result, about 23,000 students experiencing homelessness will need backpacks and school supplies this year—53 percent more than last year.

“For over 20 years, Volunteers of America-Greater New York has ensured that every child living in a New York City shelter is equipped with the supplies they need through Operation Backpack®. In the face of the worsening family homelessness crisis, the support of this campaign has never been more vital for our city’s children,” said Ericia Antoine, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Engagement and Special Events at VOA-GNY. “Children in shelters already face many challenges in their education, and providing backpacks and schools supplies helps to level the playing field and ease the burden on parents who are already stretched thin. Despite this year’s elevated need, we are committed to ensuring children experiencing homelessness have the tools they need to succeed in the upcoming school year.”

One of the most devastating consequences of family homelessness is its impact on a child’s education. Educational resources can help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty including having a full complement of school supplies, which plays a critical role in higher rates of homework completion, class participation and, ultimately, graduation.

VOA-GNY is entirely dependent on its supporters for Operation Backpack® with a number of prominent companies sponsoring this year’s campaign, including Loews Corporation, Cerberus, Westfield, CMT Group and PIX11. Award-winning actress and producer Julianne Moore will once again feature in a PSA for the campaign.

VOA-GNY launched Operation Backpack® in 2003 as an effort to collect school supplies for the children living in its own shelters and has since grown to become the largest back-to-school drive in New York City. In the two decades since its founding, more than 250,000 children have received backpacks and school supplies through the campaign. VOA-GNY has been the exclusive partner of the NYC Department of Education in these efforts.

Learn more about this year's campaign and how you can get involved.