If you have ever gone out of town and stayed with family, after five or six days most people are ready to go back home. Being put out of your usual routine and in unfamiliar surroundings, sleeping back in your own bed starts to sound like winning the lottery. But what if, because of circumstances beyond your control, you have no real home to go back to?
During the 2013 and 2014 school year, there were 970 recorded ‘homeless’ students, under the age of 18, in the Douglas County School District. Children and youth fell into this category because of a ‘lack of a fixed, regular or adequate night-time residence.’ Looking to lower the number of local students without sufficient shelter, area non-profit, Hide in Plain Sight, is trying to raise public awareness and funds to give assistance to this population in important ways.
“Everyone of these kids, this stuff is beyond their control,” said Joe Roos, Founder of Hide in Plain Sight. Because he knows that a family with children can be hit by financial hardship when an unforeseen tragedy, such as a parent death or illness, strikes. “We try to provide funding to assist them with things like food and shelter, while also helping them in the area of education, primarily by providing scholarships (beyond high school).”
Since 2012, Roos has made it his mission to make the community aware that though Douglas County ranks as the 8th wealthiest county in the U.S., not everyone is doing well. “It’s everybody from Pre-K to 12th grade,” Roos stated. “Foreclosure, eviction, family breakup, loss of a job, underemployment, domestic abuse & violence, divorce, health issues or general financial hardship- it’s easy to see how a lot of these things tie into each other.”
And he feels the actual number of students without adequate shelter might be underestimated. Though the Douglas County School District regularly student profiles, because it is a humiliating and embarrassing fact to tell anyone, let alone a teacher or other school employee that you are living in your parents van or staying at a hotel, some choose to keep this information hidden.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Hide in Plain Sight sees the best way of tackling this issue is through combined efforts with area non-profits who are serving the same people. They communicate regularly with and give donations to SECOR, Fresh Harvest, as well as the Douglas/Elbert Task Force and the Parker Task Force; donating funds secured through their website and a fundraiser held in the fall.
“It’s important to make sure these kids have food- especially during the summer months when they no longer get reduced school lunches- and that we can give assistance to organizations like the Task Force so their ‘residences’ can keep the lights on,” commented Roos. Again, once the community can help see that basic needs are met, Roos has set the next goal of helping these students attain a brighter future.
This year, their charity efforts have allowed them to award a scholarship and change the lives of three homeless high school seniors, one who has been in 11 different homes since 2011. “If we help these kids, with no financial support for college, we can help break the cycle of homelessness,” Roos stated. “If we don’t help them, they get involved in things they shouldn’t.”
If you would like to find out more about Hide in Plain Sight and assist a child in going to college, please visit: http://www.hideplainsight.org or on Facebook @ http://www.hideplainsight.org/about-us.html