The Girl Scouts of Greater New York traditionally names its troops according to each of the city's five boroughs — the Bronx has the 1000s, Brooklyn the 2000s, and so on. Troop 6000, however, is special. Founded in February, it's the first Girl Scout troop in New York City designed exclusively for homeless girls.
According to the New York Times, all of the troop members live in a Sleep Inn in Queens, which has been set up by the city to house approximately 100 homeless families. They meet in what was once a dining room in the hotel.
The troop got its start thanks to the suggestion of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose own family became homeless in 1970, as well as Giselle Burgess, a single mom and community engagement specialist with the Girl Scouts who is homeless herself and now has two daughters in the troop. Although the first meeting attracted only eight girls, according to a new segment for Today, membership is now up to 22.
The Girl Scouts of Greater New York is covering the cost of everything from membership fees and dues to starter kits with vests and patches, so no girl has to worry about being able to afford the friendship and fun that the troop offers. Last month, Councilman Van Bramer gave the girls pins for completing first aid training and talked to them about government. He called the troop "just about the most right thing I've ever been a part of."
Troops of this kind are rare, but not unheard of, with examples in states such as Georgia, Florida, and California. One of the troop members, 14-year-old Hailey, told the Times that they're starting "a chain reaction."
"Hopefully, in the next couple years, there will be more Girl Scout troops in shelters," she said.
That could be happening soon, as Steven Banks, city commissioner of social services, told the publication "he had met with representatives of the Girl Scouts recently to discuss an expansion into other shelters."
Troops such as this can make a big difference in New York City, where homelessness has reportedly reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. In February 2017, the same month Troop 6000 was founded, there were more than 62,000 homeless people sleeping in the shelter system each night, and more than 23,000 of them were children. Of the 287 people at the Sleep Inn, 155 are under 18.
"It kind of feels like you're not alone,'' a scout named Sinai told Today of her experience in the troop. "It shows you that you're not the only one who has the same problem."
Burgess told the program that the group's mission is to "instill girls with courage, confidence, and character."
Those are exactly the kinds of qualities that will help them reach their goals, which, as some of the girls told the Times, include helping the homeless themselves when they grow up.
If you'd like to assist with funding, you can donate to the Girl Scouts of Greater New York here.