The terms "Arabs of the Street" and "City Arabs" were popularized in the British isles in the 1840s by John Pounds. Pounds's "Ragged Schools" aimed to educate these street children.
The terms were quickly applied in New York as well.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Arab, n. and a.
(Orig. Arab of the city, city Arab, street Arab.) A homeless little wanderer; a child of the street.
1848 GUTHRIE Plea for Ragged Sch., The Arab of the City..The City Arab. 1848 LD. SHAFTESB. Sp. in Parl. 6 June, City Arabs..are like tribes of lawless freebooters, bound by no obligations, and utterly ignorant or utterly regardless of social duties. 1872 CALVERLEY Fly-Leaves (title) The Arab. 1883 Pall Mall G. 27 Oct. 5 The hero and heroine began life as street Arabs of Glasgow.
street-Arab (also written with small a), a homeless vagrant (usually a child) living in the streets (see ARAB n. 3).
1859 G. A. SALA Twice round Clock 388 *Street Arabs, threw 'cart-wheels' into the midst of the throng. 1865 LITTLEDALE Cath. Ritual Ch. Eng. 8 How can we most easily get a half-savage street-Arab..to understand that there is [etc.]. 1875 Punch 6 Mar. 108/2 Irregular crossing-sweepers, unlicensed boot-cleaners, and street-Arabs generally.
14 July 1849, The Friend, pg. 339:
John Pounds, the Founder of Ragged Schools, was the son of a workman employed in the Royal Dockyards at Portsmouth, and was born in that town in 1766.
When his scholars became numerous, he gave up his cats and canary birds, and devoted the latter part of his life exclusively to the more intellectual employment of taming and subduing the "wild Arabs of the City."
8 March 1854, New York Daily Times, 'The Friendless Children, pg. 2:
...the thought of the inefficiency of churches or any of the established institutions of Christianity for the purpose of christianizing these "Street Arabs," thieves and vagabonds.
4 January 1873, Appletons' Journal, pp. 47-49:
The Street Arabs of New York.