By Naeisha Rose
More than a year ago, Girl Scout Troop 6000 started with one facility and 22 girls in Long Island City. Last week, the group catering to girls and young women in the shelter system received $1 million from the city and has already expanded to 15 shelters in all five boroughs to serve more than 500 youths.
There used to be one shelter by the Sleep Inn Hotel shelter in Long Island City and now there are three overall in Queens, according to spokeswoman Arianna Fishman.
“Girl Scouting showed me that I shouldn’t be ashamed of who I am, what I look like, or where I live, and that homelessness does not define me,” said Karina Burgess, a Girl Scout from Queens who has since moved out of the shelter system to permanent housing. “Troop 6000 taught me about sisterhood, how to be courageous and how to advocate for girls just like myself.”
Troop 6000 was established in February 2017 and within months of providing leadership and community development programs at its first site, a temporary shelter just north of the Queensbridge Houses at 38-71 13th St., Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to provide a three-year, $1 million grant to expand the program to all five boroughs.
“Every single girl in the city of New York deserves the opportunity to join a community where they are told that they are welcome, that they belong and that they are loved,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
He helped longtime friend Giselle Burgess start the program after she and her five children moved into the shelter when their rented home in Flushing was sold.
“Troop 6000 helps girls have a place where they can feel home even when they are homeless. This program changes lives,” Van Bramer said.
The group was created through a partnership with the city’s Department of Homeless Services and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. The resources, which will come from the Mayor’s Fund, cover membership fees, troop dues, starter kits for girls (vests, pins and workbooks), program supplies, financial aid for summer camp and other miscellaneous Girl Scout initiatives, according to DHS.
“The partnership between the city, the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, and the Mayor’s Fund represents the very best of what we can accomplish in collaboration,” said Darren Bloch, the executive director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
First Lady Chirlane McCray believes the investment will have a big impact on the lives of these girls and young women.
“The Girl Scouts in Troop 6000 are an impressive representation of New York City’s next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders and humanitarians,” said McCray. “With Troop 6000 in all five boroughs, any girl or young woman who wants to be a Scout, can be a Scout — no matter where she lives. Programs like these create continuity for young people whose families may need to relocate often.”
Troop 6000 meets weekly in shelters across the city and is led by trained troop leaders, which is a combination of women living in the shelter system, community volunteers, and shelter staff, according to DHS. To accommodate the mobility of members, the troop leaders and scouts are welcome to any shelter meeting since it’s one big chapter. Scouts from other boroughs have already joined the program and the funds will allow them to fully have the troop experience.
“A wise woman once said, ‘Who runs the world? Girls!’ Never has that been more true than today,” said DHS Administrator Joslyn Carter. “On behalf of the Department of Homeless Services, we are all overjoyed to celebrate and support Troop 6000, helping over 500 girls and women experiencing homelessness build the confidence, character and community to be our City’s next generation of leaders.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose