How To Hoop
Nonprofit Organization Helps Feed the Homeless
Writer / Matt Roberts
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
People take different approaches when they encounter a homeless person on the street. Some might believe that the homeless have only themselves to blame. Others might want to help, but don’t know how or feel too embarrassed. Many people just focus on avoiding eye contact.
But for the past 14 years, a group named Helping Our Own People (HOOP) has persistently gone out of their way to feed the homeless where they live and try to bring some human kindness into the lives of people hidden from most of society. Don Beckwith is President of the HOOP Board of Directors, and he and his wife Karen have been working to provide comfort to the Indianapolis homeless population since 2004. The couple live on the south side about a half mile from Greenwood.
“Originally a Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy started delivering blankets to the homeless,” Don says. “He asked a woman who worked at the Children’s Guardian Home if she’d like to help. So, she and her husband (George and Linda Cuff) got their friends together and started going out nightly. Karen and I saw an article in the newspaper later that year and started helping.”
At first, the Beckwiths were focused on collecting donations, but then they joined the outings to distribute food and clothing. In 2016, the organization made more than 3,500 contacts with people in need as they dispensed some 317 gallons of soup, 4,300 sandwiches and thousands of items of clothing.
“HOOP is unique in that we take the supplies to the homeless camps,” Don says. “We don’t set up in a specific location for them to come to us.”
Beckwith adds that most of the homeless encampments can be found along the White River, though this wasn’t always the case.
“The homeless have been pushed out of a lot of the other areas where they were living,” he says. “The railroad had them kicked out of the areas around the CSX tracks up and down Washington Street and across from Eli Lilly. And, sometimes, that makes sense. About 10 years ago there was a big fire (started from cooking fires) under Davidson Street, which could have burned down the railroad bridge. So they had to stop that.
“But, let’s face it,” he adds. “The homeless are treated like today’s lepers. People don’t want to see them in the corners or under bridges wrapped in blankets. People often ask if what we do encourages people to stay on the streets. I doubt that anybody would live on the street just to get a cup of soup from the back of a van. But the people we meet have pretty much given up all hope, and they’re living on the street because they have no place else to go. And just knowing that there are some people willing to help them is encouraging for them.”
HOOP is a tax-exempt, IRC 501(c)(3) organization, and both cash and in-kind donations are accepted. For instructions on how to contribute or participate, visit HOOP at HOOPindy.weebly.com.
“The smallest thing can really help sometimes,” Karen adds. “When it’s really hot outside, you’ll meet people who have clothes on that they’re been wearing for days. And when you give them a clean T-shirt, they’ll hold it up to their face, smell it, and get a big smile on their face. And we’ll soak a wash rag in ice water and give that to them. Something that simple can make them really happy for just a few minutes.”