Can Soccer Solve Homelessness?

Charles MacGregor, coach of the North Shore Salvation Army Shields, says soccer can help get the homeless off the streets. (Photo: Rob Newell, North Shore Outlook)

If you could put an end to homelessness, how would you do it? Would you believe there’s an international movement looking to soccer (or football, as it’s called abroad) as a solution?

The Homeless World Cup is an international soccer tournament that uses the sport as a catalyst to encourage homeless people to change their lives, as well as to change the attitudes of governments and the public to create better solutions to homelessness.  Every year, teams of homeless individuals compete in local, regional, and national matches for the opportunity to represent their country in the Homeless World Cup. This year’s 2011 tournament will be held in Paris.

Mel Young, Founder & President, explains, “We simply use football as a way of getting homeless people to come together to begin to take responsibility for the next step in their lives. We have created a global football stage where we have simply changed the landscape around homeless people and then they change as a result. It is simple. It is magic.”

The North Shore Salvation Army Shields are based out of the John Braithwaite Community Centre in North Vancouver. Photo: Vancouver Street Soccer website

In Vancouver, Canada, Salvation Army employee Charles MacGregor took notice of the homeless soccer movement and established a Vancouver Street Soccer League Team called the North Shore Salvation Army Shields. The team recently won a tournament in December 2010.

In a recent interview, MacGregor described the experience to the North Shore Outlook, “It’s bonding. It’s team play. It’s getting the guys out of their rooms or off the street…For two hours we just focus on playing. I hope what we’re doing is providing two hours where there are no other worries.”

According to the Homeless World Cup website, “[the tournament] has triggered and supports grass-roots football programs in over 70 nations and involved 50,000 people.” The organization also reports that 70% of their players significantly change their lives as a result of their involvement .

So, what do you think? Could soccer be a viable way to help end homelessness? Learn more at www.homelessworldcup.org.