Our Story

The Scottie’s Place Story

In 1993, Founders Jo-El Wadsworth and Paul Winter met Scottie. Scottie was eight years old and living with his parents and baby brother in a van in a national forest. He and his family were homeless; his father worked as a day laborer in nearby towns. Scottie owned one book, which he clung to – a children’s bible that he could not read.

At that time, Jo-El and Paul were unaware that children were experiencing homelessness in the United States. They found that while many organizations and public figures were working to end homelessness, few efforts addressed the special needs of the children. The National Coalition for the Homeless states that, “Homelessness today is not just a housing issue, it is an education issue, a children’s issue and a family issue. Attempts to break the cycle that do not address these facts are destined to fail.”

In 1999, Jo-El and Paul opened Scottie’s Place with the mission to empower and educate the most vulnerable children in our communities. Scottie’s Place was the first year-round, special-needs camp in the United States for children affected by homelessness. Since it’s inception, the camp has served over five hundred children from homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and impoverished families, providing residential and day programs to children in five states and Washington, DC. It has become a local and national resource for children in need and has brought hope and healing to hundreds of children in crisis.

In 2012, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Scottie’s Place launched the Leadership Education & Empowerment Program (LEEP), a global initiative that takes best practices from its work with highly disadvantaged children in the US and applies this knowledge and experience to leadership and education programs for refugee youth living in displaced communities, worldwide. The mission of the LEEP is to bring transformative change into the lives of children and adults by assisting those living under highly disadvantaged conditions to attain a large measure of their potential in personal development and life achievement.

By partnering with refugee youth and the community, LEEP ensures that participants have the skills and support necessary to play a leading role in the reconstruction and peace building of their host and home communities.

1993

Founders Jo-El Wadsworth and Paul Winter meet Scottie.

1999

Jo-El and Paul open Scottie’s Place with the mission to empower and educate children affected by homelessness.

2008

Scottie’s Place expands its mission to include local, at-risk children.

2009

Jo-El launches the Leadership Academy, an alternative school for local, at-risk students.

2012

Paul and Matt visit five refugee camps in Africa to learn more about the challenges facing refugee students and how Scottie’s Place can help.

2013

LEEP is officially launched in the Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana, bringing academic enrichment and leadership development to refugee youth.