As somewhat of a rite of passage, young girls across the country join Girl Scouts to give back to their communities, develop important leadership skills, and make lifelong friendships.
But what happens if parents can’t afford the monthly dues and financial commitment it takes to put their children through Scouts? What if girls don’t have have a home, let alone a troop, to call their own?
Girl Scout Troop 6000 is the first scout troop in New York City designated solely for homeless girls, and it’s changing community programming for the better. According to a New York Times profile on Troop 6000, the troop is comprised of 28 girls ages 5-15 who live in a Sleep Inn where New York City’s Department of Homeless Services pays to shelter homeless families on 10 floors of the hotel.
Giselle Burgess, who started Troop 6000 in February, is a single mom with five kids ranging from 3-14. After her landlord decided to sell the building she lived in, Burgess struggled to find a new place to live and entered the city’s shelter system. According to Burgess’ interview with NPR, landlords were wary of renting a place to a single mom with that many children.
After she began to live in shelters, Burgess started working for Girl Scouts of Greater New York as a community development specialist. When she asked if she could start a troop in her shelter, she was greeted with a resounding “yes,” and got started building the now-famous Girl Scout troop.
Since starting the troop, Burgess and her group of impressive young women, including three of her own daughters, have practiced first aid, studied women’s suffrage and learned about STEM careers. They’ve also camped upstate where they stayed in cabins, milked cows, and got in touch with nature, far away from the city.
The New York Times reports that The Girl Scouts of Greater New York covers all costs for Troop 6000, including monthly dues, membership fees, patch and pin costs, and workbooks. Just this month, the New York City government announced that it will invest $1.1 million to expand Troop 6000 from two dozen girls at one shelter to as many as 500 girls at 15 shelters across the city, making it easier for girls everywhere to get in on the fun.
In starting this troop, Burgess hopes to change the way the people’s perception of homelessness. She says when people think about homelessness, they, “think about the man on the corner who came from out of state and has the cardboard sign.”
“I think my biggest goal here is to try to break that stigma of homelessness,” she says.
Troop 6000 is a true inspiration and we can’t wait to buy their cookies next year.