Hoops for Hope Give Homeless Men Purpose
Homelessness is something that permeates our nation and affects people everywhere, including the places closest to us. Of the 1.6 million people in Philadelphia, there are over 1,000 people homeless, as of a count last year. Given the high population, homelessness is considerably low compared to other major cities in the country, such as Los Angeles or Detroit. Still, the issue remains an important one in our city that also battles poverty and a growing opioid epidemic. While homelessness is a complicated problem, there are people and organizations taking small steps to help, like Hoops for Hope.
Just a few minutes from Temple University in North Philadelphia, homeless men in the Hoops for Hope league gather to play basketball and enjoy some good, old fashioned competition. Every Wednesday, the Hoops for Hope league meets at a small gym in the historic Church of the Advocate, on Diamond and Gratz streets. Tori Urban, a substance use coordinator in homeless shelters, started the league back in 2015 and after a break for a few years, started it up again this summer. A total of six shelters throughout the city are participating, and this league shows no signs of stopping, with Urban recently applying to make Hoops for Hope an official non-profit.
During the games, there is water, pizza donated by a local shop, and pretzels brought courtesy of one of the program coordinators, Leo Porth. The program gives homeless men a sense of community, purpose, confidence, and value, something so important in re-building self-esteem. On the effect of sports for the men, Urban stated, “I actually surveyed the men in different shelters, what sport would they like to play? Basketball was the choice of an overwhelming majority. Seeing the addiction and the mental illness and the trauma, knowing the role a sport — particularly a team sport — how it can affect them, this made sense. We’ve been seeing smiles, and the spirit brightening — literally seeing the stress fall off the shoulders of these men.”
The effects of this small program don’t just reach the participants, they ripple outward toward our surrounding communities as well, giving us all a dose of much needed hope and love.