Amid the grim statistics on the city’s ballooning homeless population, there are moments that speak to the arc of the human spirit and the resilience of young people left on the margins.
There is a man from Astoria who keeps tabs on the homeless women living on the streets in Manhattan. He brings them food, clothing and basic essentials, such as toothpaste.
Mickey Zezima, who uses the street name Mickey Z, is a one-man rescue squad who founded the Helping Homeless Women-NYC Project to ease the hardship experienced by these women — many of whom have fled domestic abuse.
He started out paying for the care packages himself, but last winter he set up a GoFundMe page to encourage other New Yorkers to step up to the plate on the homeless crisis and to bring in more donations.
Mickey Z, who calls himself a “recovering activist,” is a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter protests, but has found his true calling in helping homeless women.
Part of the challenge is to find the women, because unlike homeless men, they tend to be invisible and hide in the shadows, he says. Women who survive on the street are terrified of homeless shelters and prefer to battle the heat and the cold outside.
A professional trainer and writer by trade, Mickey Z is a Good Samaritan by inclination and a Queens hero. His ultimate goal is to get fellow New Yorkers involved in reaching out to homeless women until the city’s Dickensian shelter system improves.
He matches volunteers’ skills with the real-world needs of women who have lost all the trappings of a conventional life.
As Mickey Z roams the streets, there is a small miracle underway at the Sleep Inn Hotel shelter in Long Island City. It is the home — yes, home — of the first Girl Scout troop in the nation for homeless girls and women.
Troop 6000 was founded by a single mother of five, who became homeless after losing her rental home in Flushing, and a Girl Scouts community leader. In March, the group welcomed 22 enthusiastic young girls from the Sleep Inn. The program is designed to build the new Scouts’ confidence and foster community support as they cope with being homeless.
And some of their mothers have expressed interest in becoming Scout leaders, a development which is bringing this life-affirming New York City experiment full circle.
In fact, Troop 6000 has been so successful that City Hall is investing more than $1 million to expand the model to 15 shelters in all five boroughs.
These stories inspire and make us realize that we could all do more.