Homeless in Douglas County: Scholarships aim to boost students in need

Advocate also strives to bring awareness to issue

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When Joe Roos, 61, worked part-time for the Douglas/Elbert Task Force, he saw a trend in the county’s homeless population: Of the 15,000 people the task force served, about 40 percent were children.

When he left thatposition in May 2014, he wanted to do something specifically for the homeless student population. So, in February, he started the nonprofit Hide in Plain Sight.

“After having worked with the task force, I saw there was a gap in our community to service the youth,” said Roos, a retired IBM marketing professional who lives in Highlands Ranch.

Roos’ passion is to help those pockets of people that are underserved and in a situation beyond their control.

“As adults, at some point each one of us needed someone to help us on our own journey,” he said. “And it is each of our own responsibility to pay it forward.”

Hide in Plain Sight has two main purposes.

The first is to provide scholarships to graduating homeless high school seniors for college or vocational school. The goal is to help them continue their education, become competitive in the job market and, ultimately, break the cycle of homelessness.

“Scholarships level the playing field, regardless of economic background,” Roos said. “We need to step up and help our kids now — be a positive impact.”

In June, the organization gave $3,000 scholarships to three graduating seniors for post-secondary education. The organization works closely with the Douglas County School District to help identify students who can benefit.

“This isn’t something that as a district we can go at alone,” said Jason Germain, chief student advocacy officer for Douglas County schools. “I think, ultimately, our students benefit from the collaboration.”

The second goal is to raise awareness about homeless youth and the need for emergency financial assistance and food.

Hide in Plain Sight doesn’t run programs, but Roos hopes that — with more funding — his organization can help the increasing population of homeless students.

“While our numbers may not be the largest, because of the growth of our county, 26 percent of our jobs are below the poverty level,” Roos said. “We have people in need.”

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