How a 12-Year-Old Homeless Girl Helped More Than 400 Children Find Safer Shelter

By Crystal Shepeard, Care2 | Op-Ed

The city-run Auburn Family Residence homeless shelter in New York, Nov. 20, 2013. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

The idea of having to navigate cockroaches, mice, no heat and sexual predators before you even leave for school is not something any child should go through. Yet, this is the daily life for hundreds of children living in two shelters in New York City and Brooklyn. They are part of the more than 22,000 children that make up New York City’s homeless population.

Now, after more than a decade of repeated citations for deplorable conditions, more than 400 children and their families are being moved from the city-owned facilities – all because of a determined 12-year-old girl.

Chanel couldn’t afford the luxury of buying water in a bottle. When the water with the fancy name started arriving in the bodegas of her Brooklyn neighborhood, she felt that it represented a certain status in life she could never imagine. When her first child was born a short time later, she gave her the name Dasani, with the hope it would give her a chance in life.

Twelve years later, Dasani would be standing on stage at the swearing in of the 109th mayor of New York City and be the subject of a major profile in The New York Times.

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Reprinted with permission