I first wrote about Street Soccer USA on October 12, 2008 when the US team made up of 13 homeless men and women were on their way to the Street Soccer World Cup in Melbourne, Australia. Founder Lawrence Cann now runs Street Soccer USA out of HELP USA in New York, an organization whose primary mission is seeking housing for the homeless, but which recognizes the need to be flexible and responsive to the changing causes of homelessness. In recent years, they have also added early childhood education, after school, and mentoring programs. When research began to show domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness, they created support centers, shelters, and scholarship programs. With rising unemployment rates, HELP USA has begun developing job placement and vocational training programs. And, of course, they are the new home base for Street Soccer USA - "Soccer for social change...ending homelessness through sports."
The US Cup, where the finalists for the team that heads to the World Cup will be chosen, begins in 5 days. According to Lawrence's statistics, the program has an overwhelming success rate. "Since 2005, 28 of our 32 National Team alumni have moved off and stayed off the street since being part of SSUSA. And to date, over seventy-five percent of the participants change their lives for the better including securing full-time jobs, long-term housing, and freedom from addiction and mental health afflictions."
This year the Street Soccer World Cup is in Milan beginning September 6th. It costs $1000 per team member to travel and participate, it's roughly 10,000 miles to get there, and they need $10,000 total to fund the trip for the team. All equipment is donated and most of the programs are run by volunteers. Once the final players are chosen August 2nd at the US Cup, they have two weeks to purchase tickets, meaning the deadline to raise funds is August 15th.
Utilizing the significance of being a "10" on the soccer field - being a leader on the team - and the multiples of 10 listed above, Street Soccer is seeking donations in $10 increments (though more is always welcome) to reach their $10,000 goal. So far they've raised $1,181.
In LA at least, and probably in many towns across the country, you can't even see a movie for $10, get a good glass of wine, or eat a hamburger anymore. For those of you living in a city with a competing team - Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Chicago, Fort Worth, LA, Minneapolis, Montgomery County, New York, Richmond, Sacramento, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington DC - $10 is a small gift for someone else doing the hard work of life affirmation, self-esteem reinforcement, socialization, and caring for your neighbors in need. For those who live in cities without a street soccer team, Street Soccer needs your input and support to grow and expand further.
So, here's my idea. Say a group of you and your friends decide to go see the new Harry Potter movie this week. In LA, that's about $12 a person, $20 a person if you want to see it at Grauman's Chinese Theater in the new moving D-box seats. You know pretty much what's going to happen - there's some magic, some special effects, the good guys win and I hear Harry finds a girlfriend. Skip the movie, send $10 each to Street Soccer, and go home and play a game of Scrabble instead. Not only do I guarantee it will be more fun (particularly if you play with Nassau Boulevard rules), but you get to talk to each other, to have quality interactive time, and you can appreciate both friends and home and the qualities each provide that you simply can't imagine living without.
To be a number 10, or to read more about the program, click here.
For information on HELP USA, click here.
To become a fan of Street Soccer USA on facebook, click here.
A brief follow-up on the 826LA fundraiser regatta that I mentioned last week. The winning team, Ink Invasion, raised $2,100.23 in support of literacy programming at 826. The second place team from GOOD magazine raised $2,067.54. I attended the regatta which consisted of costumed paddle boaters circling the Echo Park lake being cheered on by fans and strangers, mostly cutely dressed twenty-something Echohipsters. In sunny LA fashion, it was a perfect afternoon of tanning, crazy sunglasses, and smiles. According to the website, it looks like over $25,000 was raised! Congrats to 826LA and all the participating teams.