Homelessness Action Week: Vancouver Street Soccer League

Dec 19 2017, 5:59 pm

In recognition of Homelessness Action Week October 11 to October 17, Vancity Buzz will be featuring profiles and interviews with former residents of the Downtown East Side, organizations trying to make a difference, and the history of one of Vancouver’s most notorious neighbourhoods.

This series is presented in partnership with the Union Gospel Mission, which offers support, programs, and resources for people looking to overcome their addictions, re-enter the work force, and take back control of their lives.

On Saturday, October 17, 2015 UGM invites you to learn about the DTES community through the Hello Neighbour Project, which offers neighbourhood walks and a community event at Oppenheimer Park. For more info visit www.ugm.ca/haw

More information on the Union Gospel Mission can be found online.

Vancouver Street Soccer League

When you feel like you’re all alone, and have no where else to go, sometimes it helps just to kick the ball around with a few friends. The Vancouver Street Soccer League makes that possible for dozens of people in Metro Vancouver.

The Street Soccer League is a volunteer-run organization aimed at reaching out to the homeless, those struggling with addiction, those who feel marginalized in their communities, and anyone else looking for a place to go; and helps build bonds through team sports.

The league has it’s beginnings in the Portland Football Club, a group started in 2008 as a way to give people staying in shelters that began opening in the winter, something to do to pass the time.

“People were safe from the hazards of the weather, but a lot of folks just didn’t have a lot to do once they were indoors,” says Kurt Heinrich, Vice-President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, and assistant coach for one of the teams. “Especially during the day they were just bouncing off the walls.”

Shelter worker Sarah Blyth gathered those interested, and Heinrich jumped on board from there, practicing and running drills in the Britannia Gym, giving shelter residents a way to pass the time and stay active. Over time, more and more players became interested, until other shelters began getting involved. Now the Street Soccer League operates as a non-profit board, hosting weekly practice sessions, charity games, and scrimmages with teams and players from across Vancouver.

“What we’ve found more than anything is it’s the community of people, of volunteers and players, who really have created this awesome community of support,” says Heinrich. “A lot of our players hang out together, we’ll do a Christmas dinner, that sort of thing.”

Heinrich says the reason for this bond is that, when people are at their lowest, just having some people to hang out with and get your mind off things can be just what they need.

“When people are struggling with trauma or crises, it’s really important, especially if you’re feeling isolated; if you were living in a shelter environment, or if your housing was up in the air and you’re not sure what’s going to happen,” says Heinrich. “It’s great to have a group of people that are just totally there to kick the ball around.”

Now the Vancouver Street Soccer League operates as a non-profit board, raising funds for the various shelters and organizations in town, as well as serving as the official charity of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

On Saturday, October 17 the Vancouver Street Soccer League will be hosting scrimmage games as part of the Hello Neighbour Project in Oppenheimer Park. Heinrich says working with the UGM is just one more way they’re reaching out to organizations in the city, and helping build bonds where they can.

“We’re big believers that it could be very valuable for just about any of the shelter providers out there,” he says.

“It was a really perfect fit for what they were trying to do,” he added. “They’re trying to bring in members of the community from around Metro Vancouver and give folks an opportunity to interact with folks they might otherwise not interact with in a very positive way.”

More information on the Vancouver Street Soccer League, including how you can donate or get involved, can be found online.