Of the nearly 14,000 homeless children in New York City, a lucky few will experience life beyond concrete and congestion this summer, thanks to camp programs that get them out of the urban norm and into the great outdoors.
Since 1989, Homes for the Homeless, a homeless services provider that operates several shelters in New York City, has run three camps – Lanowa, Wakonda and Kiwago – just a short drive upstate. This summer HFH offered three sessions, each about two weeks long. When operating at full capacity, the camps can serve up to 1,000 of the city's homeless children per summer, says camp services coordinator Dona Anderson.
Free of charge to those on public assistance and eligible for public child care, these camps are designed for 7- to 13- year-olds from all five boroughs, uniquely catering to those currently living in shelters, recent shelter dwellers, children living in foster care and others living on public assistance—many of whom who have never experienced the “real” outdoors. Registration for camp begins as early as March each year, led by a team of recruiters who advertise in shelters, foster care agencies and after school programs around the city.
Located approximately 50 miles north of New York City in Harriman State Park, these leafy camps contain enough flora and fauna to make an impression on the youngsters. Camp Lanowa itself sits on Upper Twin Lake and boasts 20 camper cabins, a frog pond, a climbing wall, a swimming hole and campfire pits.