Charity of Poor People

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Mark Victor Hansen

He was not your typical cabbie. As we took off from the downtown Hyatt enroute to the Kansas City Airport, he drove by what appeared to be a sparsely furnished office in a relatively seedy section of downtown. Then he said proudly, "That's my office!" The window front said "COPP" on it. He said, "I take care of the invisible 10,000 Kansas City homeless out of there." I could sense the emotion in his words. My eyes started tearing up.

"Yep," Richard Tripp said, "I feed 800 people Christmas breakfast when they get kicked out of the regular shelters that are preparing for Christmas dinner. I started COPP (Charity of Poor People) when I got back on my feet again after being homeless for six months. I'd been hackin' for 20 years and got too many speedin' tickets, lost my license and was suddenly homeless. It wasn't too bad. See those truckin' yards? They got heavy plastic that I pulled out of their garbage cans. Heavy duty plastic makes a rainproof tent and sleepin' bag that'll keep you alive. I slept in those woods over there every night for six months. If someone's homeless over six months, nine out of ten of 'em will stay permanently homeless. I give 'em a new choice and a chance.

"We don't take no money--only food, long johns, and real stuff the homeless need now. I go on the radio and get lots of stuff. "Last year a husband and wife who heard me on the radio came into COPP, and I touched 'em because I talk with my heart. The couple's five-year-old daughter got killed by a hit-and-run driver. They gave gloves to 800 people in memory of their daughter. It was the best and most useful gift I ever saw anyone give. Everyone thanked 'em and cried because their hands would not freeze anymore."

Because of Richard Tripp, 5,000 of the 10,000 homeless people in Kansas City have been served meals and provided clothing on a yearly basis.