Teen carries on father’s legacy of helping the homeless

For Hunter Roff, a ninth-grader at North Royalton High School, helping those in need is a family affair.

Along with his father, Dean Roff, Hunter has been instrumental in the growth of Homeless Hookup, an organization dedicated to providing essential supplies and services to homeless individuals in the Cleveland area.

What started as a small grassroots effort by Dean in 2014 has blossomed into a nonprofit that reaches over 5,000 people every year. Hunter has been by his father’s side since the beginning, witnessing the impact of the organization’s efforts.

“My dad is one of my biggest heroes,” said Hunter. “He’s helped more people than I can count, and he’s also made me realize that if I see someone struggling, I don’t just wish that person the best, I do my best to help that person.”

Dean’s own experience with homelessness and alcoholism fueled his desire to break the cycle and provide a better life for his son. After getting sober in 2008, Dean was devastated to learn that his father had passed away homeless and struggling with alcoholism himself. This revelation motivated him to create a positive legacy for Hunter.

“My dad told me most people don’t see another person laying in the sidewalk, they just see another part of the sidewalk. However, they are still people and they want to give back regardless of not having much to give,” Hunter said. “I was once given a ring, and my dad was given two Bibles.”

Homeless Hookup started by collecting donations of clothes, hygiene supplies, and other essentials, which Dean and Hunter would distribute to homeless individuals in and around Cleveland. As the initiative grew, it caught the attention of community partners like the Lakewood Fire Department, who donated an RV to serve as a mobile hygiene unit.

Today, Homeless Hookup operates a monthly mobile hygiene bus that provides haircuts, hot showers, food and clean clothes to those in need. The organization also has a distribution vehicle that delivers care packages and supplies throughout the city.

Hunter, now 15, continues to be involved, embodying the empathy and compassion his father instilled in him.

In one instance, Hunter noticed a classmate with holes in his shoes and offered to switch footwear until he could get the student a new pair. Dean immediately stepped in to provide multiple pairs of shoes for the classmate.

“I’m fortunate enough to have never been in that situation, thanks to my hardworking mother and father,” said Hunter. “Even so, I understand how much this may affect someone’s mental and physical health.”. ∞

Photo: Hunter and Dean Roff are father-son team partnering to help Cleveland’s homeless population. Photo submitted.