An NYC Scout Troop Provides Homeless Girls A Place Of Their Own The 28 members of Girl Scout Troop 6000, and its two co-leaders, live in a shelter in Queens, N.Y. The troop that Giselle Burgess started is the first specifically for girls who are homeless.
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An NYC Scout Troop Provides Homeless Girls A Place Of Their Own

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An NYC Scout Troop Provides Homeless Girls A Place Of Their Own

An NYC Scout Troop Provides Homeless Girls A Place Of Their Own

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Giselle Burgess is a single mom who works, has five kids and is homeless. Her family lost their home after the landlord decided to sell the apartment to New York City. And now they live in a 10-story hotel in Queens. It's an old Sleep Inn where the city pays to put up homeless families.

GISELLE BURGESS: We have one room, two full beds. It works for now. As far as, like, privacy between myself and the children, we get a little bit overwhelmed at times because you don't have your own space. But we're making it work.

INSKEEP: To help make it work, Burgess started the first-ever Girl Scout troop specifically for homeless girls. It was on her mind because she works for the Girl Scouts. Her effort prompted the city government to fund a plan to start similar scout troops in more than a dozen shelters.

BURGESS: I try to stress the fact that they are just like any other Girl Scouting troop. The only difference between us is at the end of our meetings, we are still in the same location.

INSKEEP: And what sorts of things are you doing when you meet?

BURGESS: We started off with teaching the girls a little bit about STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and math. We added a little art in it, so we called it STEAM.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

BURGESS: And it was amazing. The girls had so much fun. They've been camping already. So they're very active girls.

INSKEEP: Where'd you go camping?

BURGESS: Dutchess County, it's upstate New York.

INSKEEP: Oh, beautiful countryside, up the Hudson River.

BURGESS: Yes, they got to go to the farm and learn what farm life was like. They got to ride horses and milk the cow. And they picked out the eggs from the chicken coop. And they had an amazing time.

INSKEEP: Did the girls seem like city slickers when you're up there?

BURGESS: You know what, they actually did. It's very new to the girls. So of course, a moth comes by, and they all start freaking out and panicking. And even with the hiking, they couldn't believe how far we had to hike up to our cabins. And we did have some girls that were like, I don't think I can do this. And the rest of them are like, you can do it. You can - we know you can do it. Come on. Keep on going. We're here. It was amazing because I truly got to see the bond that these girls have with each other. They showed me pure leadership. And I'm just beyond proud of each and every single one of them.

INSKEEP: When you said you hiked up to cabins - you're staying in cabins - did any of the girls say to you, this is nicer than where I've been living?

BURGESS: No, they did not say that. However, I did get a few of the girls who, of course, were like, this is better than staying at the hotel room (laughter) because there's more space for them to move around as opposed to being entrapped in these four walls. And you don't really have much to do.

INSKEEP: Was it kind of a downer to come back to the Sleep Inn?

BURGESS: It was. For the girls, it was kind of, we had fun, time to go back. But I think for myself and my co-leader, who actually lives in the shelter as well, for us it was like, OK, well, that was nice while it lasted - now back to our hotel rooms.

INSKEEP: I would think if I were in your situation, I would have trouble thinking about anything other than housing.

BURGESS: I used to worry a lot in the beginning. And I became depressed and just upset. And I began to look at it as, it's not my time to leave the shelter yet. There's probably still girls who I have not reached yet that I need to get to before I go.

INSKEEP: I think I hear you saying that you feel maybe you were meant to be where you are.

BURGESS: Yes, and would I have not been in this situation with these girls, ever had the opportunity to have that chance to get out of there and learn these amazing life skills and motivate them and teach them that these are just seasons in their lives and that they will surpass it and that there is much more out there that they are capable of accomplishing.

INSKEEP: Well, Giselle Burgess, thanks very much.

BURGESS: You're so welcome. Thank you.


INSKEEP: She founded Troop 6000, the first Girl Scout troop for homeless girls.

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