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Posted on: September 18, 2020

Troop 6000 : how a group of homeless Girl Scouts inspired the world

Troop 6000

Giselle Burgess was a young mother of five trying to provide for her family. Though she had a full-time job, the demands of ever-increasing rent and mounting bills forced her to fall behind, and eviction soon followed. Giselle and her kids were thrown into New York City’s overburdened shelter system, which housed nearly 60,000 people each day. They soon found themselves living at a Sleep Inn in Queens, provided by the city as temporary shelter; for nearly a year, all six lived in a single room with two beds and one bathroom. With curfews and lack of amenities, it felt more like a prison than a home, and Giselle, at the mercy of a broken system, grew fearful about her family’s future. She knew that her daughters and the other girls living at the shelter needed to be a part of something where they didn’t feel the shame or stigma of being homeless, and could develop skills and a community they could be proud of. Giselle had worked for the Girl Scouts and had the idea to establish a troop in the shelter, and with the support of a group of dedicated parents, advocates, and remarkable girls, Troop 6000 was born.

New York Times journalist Nikita Stewart settled in with Troop 6000 for more than a year, at the peak of New York City’s homelessness crisis in 2017, getting to know the girls and their families and witnessing both their triumphs and challenges. In Troop 6000, readers will feel the highs and lows as some families make it out of the shelter while others falter, and girls grow up with the stress and insecurity of not knowing what each day will bring and not having a place to call home, living for the times when they can put on their Girl Scout uniforms and come together. The result is a powerful, inspiring story about overcoming the odds in the most unlikely of places.

Stewart shows how shared experiences of poverty and hardship sparked the political will needed to create the troop that would expand from one shelter to fifteen in New York City, and ultimately inspired the creation of similar troops across the country. Woven throughout the book is the history of the Girl Scouts, an organization that has always adapted to fit the times, supporting girls from all walks of life.

Troop 6000 is both the intimate story of one group of girls who find pride and community with one another, and the larger story of how, when we come together, we can find support and commonality and experience joy and success, no matter how challenging life may be.

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