On New York City’s unofficial first day of spring, a line gathered outside of a cereal bar at Union Square to buy cookies from a homeless Girl Scouts troop that had set up shop there for the week.
Girl Scouts Troop 6000 had an ambitious goal of selling 6,000 boxes by Friday. They’ve already sold more than twice that number. The turnout has been so great that they’re extending the sale through the weekend.
Program manager and troop founder Giselle Burgess told The Daily Beast the troop now hopes to sell some 30,000 boxes. “They don’t have homes, but they’re just as bright, ambitious, and motivated,” she said of her Scouts. We are breaking that stigma of what homelessness is.
The 32-year-old started the group in 2016, while she and her three daughters were living in a shelter at Long Island City. “When we got there, I was terrified. There was no sense of community,” said Burgess.
She decided to ask the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, where she worked, if she could set up a troop at the shelter to boost the morale of girls her daughters’ age who’d across hard times. With help from officials including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who was homeless for a period during his own childhood, the troop came to life.
“We started with eight girls. Now we are have 291 girls at 14 different shelters across the city,” Burgess said, beaming.
Girl Scouts of Greater New York CEO Meredith Maskara hopes the large turnout and national attention given to Troop 6000 will change perceptions of homelessness. “People don’t think of a girl in a Girl Scout uniform when they think of a homeless person,” she said. “Homelessness is not a choice. We as a community have to realize this is not in someone else’s backyard.”
There are nearly 60,000 homeless people in New York City, including almost 23,000 children, according to the Department of Homeless Services. While Mayor de Blasio has a five-year plan to add 90 new shelters, the city rents rooms in many older hotels to use as temporary shelters and the founding members of Girl Scout Troop 6000 lived in a Sleep Inn, the Times reported.
But 10-year-old Sanaan wants people to know she’s no different from any other Girl Scout.
“Just because we live in a homeless shelter doesn’t mean we can’t be Girl Scouts. We’re brave, loyal, and would help anybody in need,” she said.