How a 5-Year-Old Helped Fight Homelessness

Annie Skaruppa and her family pose with outreach workers holding the drawing she made

Annie Skaruppa is not quite old enough for first grade. But this winter, she decided she was plenty old enough to help her fellow New Yorkers.

“We were out on Broadway and she saw teenage girls selling hot chocolate to raise money for charity. She wanted to raise money for charity too,” Annie’s mother Cindy said.

The family put their heads together and came up with a plan. Since Annie loves to draw, she would do custom drawings for her extended family in exchange for donations. It was a cold night on Broadway, so they were inspired to use the money to fight homelessness.

“We called grandmas, aunts and uncles,” Cindy Skaruppa explained. The gifts began rolling in.

Last week the family stopped by our Uptown Goddard homeless outreach office to drop off a check for $250. Annie also brought the outreach team a picture she’d drawn especially for them, of vibrant trees and flowers. More than a dozen people were waiting to meet her, say thanks and answer her questions.

“Can you explain a little bit of what you do?” she asked Uptown Goddard director Keri Goldwyn.

Goldwyn explained that the office is staffed 24/7β€””we’re always on”β€”and that our outreach specialists go out in pairs early in the morning to visit all the sites where they know unsheltered people sleep.

“We get them healthy food and warm clothing and other things they need,” Goldwyn explained. The teams help people acquire any documentation they lack, such as photo IDs and Social Security cards. They provide transportation to shelters and help them get into transitional housing and eventually permanent housing.

Often there are trust issues. People may be reluctant to move off the streets for a variety of reasons. But “We keep going out, we keep connecting with them and we’re always ready to help when they’re ready,” said Goldwyn.

While Annie and her family went out to see the outreach vehicle parked outside, the team hung up her drawing in the office. It serves as a reminder that everyone can do something to help.