Every week at the Sleep Inn in Queens, New York, there’s a Girl Scout meeting. But it’s not just any group of girls gearing up to sell cookies or make tiny snow globes. The girls in Troop 6000 live at the Sleep Inn because they’re a part of the approximately 100 homeless families in New York City’s shelter system staying there indefinitely.
Launched in February of this year, Troop 6000 is the charter group of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York’s project to “bring the Girl Scout experience to girls in the NYC Shelter System”. In addition to “building women of courage, confidence, and character”, the Troop 6000 program will provide consistency through weekly meetings, while creating a community of supportive friends and adults.
The program also intends to help adult women in the shelter system by teaching them skills through serving as a troop leader. They will be responsible for “planning activities, managing resources and time during meetings, and helping when girls have questions”. Training provided to troop leaders focuses on developing the capacity for communication, organization, and presentation.
Children make up close to 40 percent of the approximately 60,000 people in New York City’s primary shelter system. Troop 6000, currently with over 20 members, is one of many new programs to meet the needs of children living in the system. “We’re starting a chain reaction,” Troop 6000 member Hailey, 14, told the New York Times. “Hopefully, in the next couple years, there will be more Girl Scout troops in shelters.”
Recently, the girls took a field trip to the Girl Scouts headquarters on Wall Street. The girls look forward to these outings, especially because curfews and restrictions on visitors at the shelter make it hard for them to maintain friendships outside of school. The Girl Scout program offers rewards far beyond friendship: “Research has shown that Girl Scout alumnae have a stronger sense of self, achieve higher levels of education, and are more likely to reach a higher socio-economic status.”
Many of the girls had always wanted to join Girl Scouts, but their family wasn’t able to afford membership or manage the commute to meetings. However, Girl Scouts of Greater New York is covering all the costs for any girl who commits to joining Troop 6000— including the $25 membership fee, a $75 starter kit of patches, plus pins, workbooks and vests, and the additional $20 in monthly dues. Jimmy Van Bramer, NYC councilmen representing Queens helped dream up the idea for Troop 6000. “I’m proud that our district has made history by chartering the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls,” said Van Bramer, “This is among the best and most beautiful things I’ve ever been a part of, and we must expand this program all across our city.”