Tell us about yourself.Homer: I’ve been living in the West area for about 20 years. I always wanted to come and be a part of the West Loop Community Organization (WLCO), and I’m really excited now that they are whole-heartedly supporting my endeavors here at the basketball court. [Related Midwest] are the owners of the facility at Box Shops, and I asked them to let me run a youth program for the summer out here, and they thought it was a great idea. They’ve been real supportive to elect the facility out to the surrounding community, which is the target area — some of the 27th Ward and 24th Ward. These youths in these target community areas, they don’t have the facilities to accommodate their population. Or they don’t have the facilities at all. And this has been a blessing to some of them to organize basketball and AAU teams in the local community with kids that had to share gymnasiums and didn’t have appropriate times to practice. They are very excited to come out here to participate on this beautiful court. And that's what we’ve been doing; just going out and soliciting, organizing, and constructing teams to come and participate on the basketball court. I’m pretty excited.Next Level Social Services and the board are very excited, and Related is excited. And I’m so glad that West Loop Community Organization is bringing all these resources to us to help enhance the West Loop Hoops program that we’re trying to have.
Tell us about West Loop Hoops.Homer: I picked the Box Shops location because it was a facility that had been up for 3 years and no activity was on it. I asked the owners for an opportunity to have youth programs out here. I operated a social service for close to 30 years on the Near West Side, so I am familiar with social programs, how to run gymnasium activities, and things of that nature. It’s one of the best outdoor basketball facilities in the City of Chicago and it’s not getting utilized. So I’m just so happy that Related gave me the opportunity to put something out here and start something for the youth in the 27th Ward.What I had done is gone to the initial community and recruited AAU teams, basketball teams, women also — I have a women’s tournament that’s going to be held here — and just asked them if they’d like to participate on the court and take a specific time to come in. But we’re gonna have a Meet ‘N’ Greet on Monday, July 8, and the West Loop Community Organization is inviting the West Loop community to come participate and at the time.If people are interested in utilizing the facility, we are open everyday from 4-9 to people that make appointments and schedule to utilize the facility. We are open to letting anyone use it if we can fit them in the schedule, no problem.What inspired to host a basketball court in the West Loop? Homer: Well, I’ve been around basketball all my life. I played high school and college basketball. And the social center I was at for so long closed down due to lack of funding. I trained and helped a lot of youth get into good high school and college programs. I just thought it was another good way to get exposed to kids that need it, to keep them off of the streets, to keep them off of doing drugs and gang activity.
What are your hope for West Loop Hoops? Homer: My hope is that we get some great exposure out here. My hope it that we satisfy a lot of youth and get a lot of youth participation — you’d be surprised that some of the youth from the 27th Ward have never ventured down to the West Loop, ever. For them to come down here to a structured, nice facility during the summer, I think it’s advantageous to them — something creative for them to do. Which is good for them, and that’s all I really hope for.