A homeless shelter in New York has become a source of sisterhood, thanks to a new Girl Scouts troop formed for the girls living there.
Troop 6000 is made up of 22 girls who live in the Sleep Inn in Queens, which has been turned into a shelter for homeless families. The youngest scout is in kindergarten, and the oldest is a sophomore in high school. Every Friday they come together, the older girls being mentors for the younger ones and leading the meetings, which are also held at the Sleep Inn.
Meridith Maskara, chief operating officer of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, told The Huffington Post these girls are helping others look past the stigma of homelessness.
“There’s a stereotype we’ve all had consciously or subconsciously about when we hear the word ‘homeless,’ and all of a sudden there’s a shattering of this stereotype with this troop,” she said.
The Girl Scouts of Greater New York collaborated with the Department of Homeless Services to form the group after New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer thought of the idea. He joined a group of Girl Scouts in November to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter for women, which sparked the idea for Troop 6000. He hopes to expand the troop throughout New York City.
“I’ve met the members of Troop 6000, who all live in a shelter in my district, and I can tell you that they have big dreams,” he said in a statement. “They are our future engineers, fashion designers, athletes, doctors, activists, and community leaders. With Troop 6000, these girls now have a place to realize these dreams, find stability, make lifelong friends, and discover the strength they have inside to be whoever they want to be. Troop 6000 is just about the most right thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m committed to its expansion all across New York City.”
Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks echoed Van Bramer’s dedication to bringing the troop and its values to more girls in the city.
“These scouts embody the heart, smarts, and spirit of New York, which is fundamentally compassionate, and we look forward to expanding this partnership to other shelters across the City to empower and uplift more young New Yorkers,” he said.
Troop 6000 is also led by women who live in the shelter, including Giselle Burgess, a single mom who helped form the troop for her daughters and brought it to the Sleep Inn shelter.
Thanks to the Girl Scouts of Greater New York (which accepts donations), the girls in Troop 6000 have all their costs covered so they can have vests and earn badges and do everything that other troops do. Troop 6000 did not participate in selling cookies this year since it was formed after cookie sales began, but the girls’ other programs focus on outdoor skills and life skills as well as financial literacy and advocacy.
Maskara has seen firsthand what the consistency of the Friday meetings and the social setting have brought to the girls. She told HuffPost that being a part of Troop 6000 has been “transformative” for all of them.
“They are amazing young women who have incredible dreams and goals and aspirations,” she said. “They start believing that they can do this in spite of their home situation right now. They’re supportive of each other, and they are a group of sisters that will be in each other’s lives forever. I can confidently say that.”
Learn more about Troop 6000 from the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.
The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting.