Over the last two years, Hide in Plain Sight has provided 60 scholarships to homeless students throughout the state, a number it expects to exceed this year with matching grants from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.
“Our primary focus is to raise awareness and funding for students who are at risk, whether that be homelessness, poverty or special needs, so they can get a post-secondary scholarship to a college or trade school,” said Joe Roos, founder and executive director of Hide in Plain Sight. “We’re trying to give these students a hand up so they can elevate themselves out of this situation. Through scholarships and education, students become competitive in the job market and have a better probability of earning a better salary and breaking the cycle of poverty.”
There are 929,000 students in pre-kindergarten to 12th grade in Colorado. Of those, 139,000 live in poverty and 24,000 are homeless, which is defined as having no regular fixed or adequate nighttime residence.
“They could be living in an RV, in their car, in a hotel,” Roos said. “They may or may not be with a parent or legal guardian. Most of them are couch surfing, and 50 percent of all homeless students in Colorado suffer from some form of domestic violence.”
Hide in Plain Sight works with 17 colleges and universities and three trade schools. Students are screened by the financial aid office or student services to ensure they meet the income qualifications.They also must write a 500-word essay that describes the adversity they’re facing and why they are attending college and participate in a 15-minute interview. The amount of the scholarships varies from $1,000 to $4,000.
“If you’re going to a community college, that takes care of an awful lot,” Roos said. “We find students saying ‘There’s probably somebody more deserving than me, but I want to better myself so I can help other people.’”
People interested in helping Colorado’s homeless students can donate to Hide in Plain Sight’s scholarship fund either by donating on the organization’s web site at www.hideplainsight.org or texting “Hide” to 50155. The organization also has volunteer opportunities on its Advisory Board to serve on either its Student Interview Committee, Mentoring Committee or Event Planning Committee. The Advisory Board also is a precursor to serving on Hide in Plain Sight’s Board of Directors.