Dean Roff is the Founder and Executive Director of the Homeless Hookup CLE, an organization that give free lunches, showers, hair cuts, hygiene products and more to the homeless community in Cleveland. The Homeless Hookup is Dean’s full time job, dedicating his life to serve this community. But why did he feel such a strong pull to the homeless community? Liner Legal’s Katie Nobles talked with Dean to learn his story. Read below to learn about Dean and his journey to the Homeless Hookup CLE.
KN: Tell me about yourself
DR: I am a 41-year-old dad to a 14-year-old son. I’m single, I have 3 dogs, I love art, longboarding, Combat sports, billiards, I’m a sucker for babies and puppies and I run on black coffee and sarcasm. Driving around listening to music, drinking coffee and handing out donations is what I consider fun.
KN: Where did you grow up?
DR: Kentucky, Columbus, Akron, Columbus, Cleveland. I graduated, joined the Navy, got out and moved around some more…. Seattle, San Diego, Florida, and New Jersey. However, the best and worst of life has happened to me here, in Cleveland Ohio. I’ve been around the world twice and I remember standing on a beach in Thailand missing Cleveland Ohio. That’s when I knew this was home for me.
KN: What is your job, aside from the Homeless Hookup CLE?
DR: The Ohio department of health has issued us a grant that allows me to do this full time. On the side, I’m a boxing coach and personal trainer.
KN: Have you always been an advocate of the homeless community, and have you always been someone to volunteer and help those in need?
DR: I was not. I was an advocate for troubled and at-risk youth and Marijuana legalization. I’ve always been a bit of a bleeding heart but while I was in the thralls of my addiction, I was very much part of the problem not the solution.
KN: What made you want to help the homeless community in Cleveland?
DR: In 2006 I found myself homeless, which was the beginning of my rock bottom. By 2008 I was tired of living the life of a homeless alcoholic, so I got sober and cleaned up my life. That same year, I found out I was to be a father! I set out to find my biological father to tell him the wonderful news only to find out he had died homeless. He had given himself cirrhosis of the liver from a life of heavy drinking. He caught pneumonia and was found under a bridge in Las Vegas and was later identified through dental records… From that point on I made a decision to give back to the situation I came from and that claimed my father’s life.
KN: What is most rewarding about this project?
DR: Seeing the gratitude when I hand someone the simplest item like soap. It’s overwhelming. Seeing my son do philanthropic deeds on his own. Watching him get shoes for the kids at his school that can’t afford them. My sobriety!!! Since I started giving back, I haven’t felt the need to pick up a drink. I see my path laid before me everyday in the work I do. It’s a constant reminder. Homeless Hookup is a nonprofit to you but for me, it’s my salvation. It’s my answer to being a good dad and I can’t stop. My life depends on it.
KN: What is a disability warrior to you?
DR: A true warrior doesn’t see himself as disabled. A warrior sees a problem as an opportunity. A real warrior doesn’t see himself as the victim, he finds a way to be the victor. A true warrior knows that his only disability is the limitations he sets upon himself.
KN: What impact do you hope to have with Homeless Hookup CLE?
DR: 1 life…. If I save 1 life, I won. Every life saved after that is a blessing in the bank. I hope to pass on the torch of philanthropy onto my son. I hope to be the bright spot in someone’s dark, desperate day. Maybe even giving them the hope to carry on when they had none.
KN: What do you see for the future of Homeless Hookup CLE, and do you plan to expand?
DR: Akron, Warren, Columbus, Detroit, Philadelphia I think everyone deserves a haircut and a shower. Decent pair of clothes and a warm meal. Unfortunately, not many other organizations can provide that many services. This is where the hygiene bus comes in! We need more Hygiene buses and more volunteers driving distribution centers through the city triaging the problem.
Learn more about the Homeless Hookup CLE on their website, https://homelesshookupcle.com/.