For many girls, involvement in scouting opportunities is an important part of childhood. But for children who are homeless, a Girl Scouts membership is harder to achieve. Costs can be a barrier to girls wanting to access scouting opportunities. Homelessness and financial difficulties exacerbate the issue. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, there are almost 24,000 homeless children living in New York City.
Girl Scout Troop 6000 consists of 21 girls who are currently living at a Sleep Inn in Queens, New York. Giselle Burgess, a community engagement specialist for Girl Scouts of Greater New York, started the troop. Her three daughters are also members of the troop. Burgess received support from Queens councilman Jimmy Van Bramer as well as the Girl Scouts organization. Troop 6000 started with a handful of girls and grew, by word of mouth, to include 21 girls thus far.
The Girl Scouts of Greater New York is covering all costs for the troop, including membership fees and monthly dues. They are also accepting donations on the troop’s behalf.
The New York Times reported that the troop is among other programs started by the city to meet the needs of children in the shelter system. Girl Scout troops might start in other shelters as well.
Scouting activities provide a sense of stability and allow girls to build friendships with their peers. Troop meetings and other activities can give the girls something to look forward to. As a Girl Scout for a decade, I can attest to this. Girl Scout meetings and activities were crucial in my social and personal development. Having learning experiences while camping, hiking or selling cookies allowed me opportunities to try new things and flourish.
Participation in the troop has also motivated some of the girls to want to give back to their own communities.
9-year-old Silkia said she wants to help the homeless when she grows up.
“I’m going to get mad money, and I’m going to ask them if they want a shelter‚ but I need friends to help me,” Silkia said.
14-year-old Hailey wants to inspire other communities to create their own Girl Scout troops, similar to Troop 6000.
“We’re starting a chain reaction. Hopefully, in the next couple years, there will be more Girl Scout troops in shelters,” she said.
Stories like these, in times like these, are heartwarming and inspiring. Amidst economic inequality around the globe and many policies that adversely affect women and girls, stories like these are what matter. As a whole, we need to combat the underlying causes of homelessness around the world issues like gentrification, low wages, mental health challenges and so on but I am convinced that with girls like these, the future is bright. Thanks to Troop 6000 for living by the Girl Scout law no matter their circumstances.
Girl Museum Inc.