By Karen Leigh

DENVER (CBS4) – Zoë Royer is 22 years old and on a mission to help others. She’s a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University. Her goal is to speak up for those struggling with mental health issues and homelessness.

CBS4’s Karen Leigh interviews Zoë Royer who uses her past to help advocate for homeless chidlren. (credit: CBS)

“It does not reflect the person who is experiencing it. It’s a condition that’s unfortunately a part of our society, and many times people have no control over it,” Royer said.

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She understands this complex issue more than most.

Zoë Royer (credit: CBS)

“I don’t think people realize that young people experience homelessness. A lot of the times it doesn’t manifest as them living on the streets. It looks like couch surfing with whoever they can live with.”

She understands it because it’s part of her story. She was homeless after tragedy ripped her family apart.

(credit: Zoë Royer)

“I grew up in suburbia and went to a really good school. I was involved in sports and choir. I had two beautiful parents and my younger sister. I actually had an ideal childhood.”

Then things changed. When she was 14 years old, her mother was shot and killed by her father who then took his own life. Royer and her sister suddenly had no home.

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(credit: Zoë Royer)

“Both me and my sister were sent to live in foster care where we jumped around to about 13 homes in the span of my late teens. In this time, I dropped out of high school. I had no hope. I really did not believe that I had a future whatsoever.”

But, that changed when she got a call from Hide In Plain Sight and its CEO, Joseph Roos.

The nonprofit helps meet the needs of young homeless so they can build a future through education. Royer was the first person to receive help.

(credit: Hide in Plain Sight)

It changed her world.

“To have someone believe that I could do something more…. I just can’t explain how wonderful that was,” she said.

With the help of Hide in Plain Sight, Royer graduated from MSU, and is currently working on several projects with the State Attorney General’s office as a liason with young people and mental health.

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Royer’s committed to paying it forward, one day, one step at a time.

Karen Leigh