DTES Comes Together for Team Canada

It’s been an exciting time for a number of young men who herald from the Downtown Eastside. After over a year of practice, eight young men  (six of whom are from First Nations around BC) will be heading to Rio on September 15 to represent Canada in the Homeless World Cup. Haven’t heard of the Homeless World Cup? Here are some fast facts:

  • The Homeless World Cup is a world-class, annual, international football tournament
  • It uses soccer (aka football) as a catalyst to encourage people who are homeless to change their lives; and to change the attitudes of governments, media, public and key influencers to create better solutions to homelessness around the world
  • 64 Teams are competing this year
  • Last year’s cup was in Milan and the next will be in Paris
  • Team Canada is going to win (probably!)

Team Canada was drawn from Portland FC, a team drawn from the Portland Hotel Society managed HEAT shelters and the Eastside Sun Eagles, a pick up team of DTES residents.  It’s exciting the Team representing Canada will be coming from an area often written off as a hopeless basket case of poverty and addiction. Its neat to think of such a success coming from such a tough as nails neighborhood. It is a success that’s being talked up around East Hastings  most days and is capturing the imagination of many Vancouverites. Last week, this spirit was showcased on CTV and endorsed in an editorial in the Vancouver Province. This weekend, the team met Bobbie Lenarduzzi and were recognized at a Vancouver Whitecaps game.

While individual players are kicking bad habits one after another, Portland organizers and volunteers are increasingly looking to expand the Portland FC model and reach out to the dozens of other shelter residents spread around the Downtown Core. A women’s team is in the process of being formed.

None of this could have happened without the rallying support of dozens of coaches, coordinators and supporters. As a team member, its been truly heartening and inspiring to see how activists, businesses and non-profit organizations in and around the DTES  have come together to donate what they can (be it time, supplies or money) and provide the team with the resources they need to succeed. Be it businesses like Fairware, Farpost, London Drugs, Eclipse Awards, Darwin Construction, Anti-Social or organizations like Coastal Health, UBC Psychiatry or the Portland Hotel Society, Portland FC and Team Canada represent a effective (and hopefully duplicable) model of what can happen when a community comes together to make a good idea happen.

In the end, no matter what the results are in Brazil, Team Canada and the community that’s come together to support it are all winners.

Dear Brian Williams: You’re Welcome!

Recently, a thoughtfully polite thank you note from NBC Nightly News Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams (pictured), has been making its way across the Canadian Twitterverse. Mr. Williams, after apparently stealing several dollars worth of items from his hotel room, passed along a heartfelt post-Olympic thank you note.

The Daily Gumboot’s online community, a veritable focus group and/or cross-section of Canadians – we do have ideas from everywhere, after all – is well placed to provide some you’re welcome anecdotes in response to Mr. Williams’s class-act of a thank you note. After all, we Hosers are a courteous lot, aren’t we?

Here is our new friend Brian’s note with my responses in italics

Thank you, Canada:

For being such good hosts. No problem, Brian. I mean, when you drop $8 billion on a party, you can be pretty confident it’ll go reasonably well – the rest of the “hosting” comes to us naturally; I mean, have you ever been to a Canadian kitchen party? We basically took that formula and applied it to the Olympics.

For your unfailing courtesy. You’re absolutely right. We even made mistakes – hydraulic-based ones as well as hosting a “winter” event in a rain forest during Springtime – just so other countries wouldn’t feel outperformed in the future.

For your (mostly) beautiful weather. Beauty is subjective, Brian. And some people think soulless gray drizzle is gorgeous.

For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television. Honestly, this was a mistake. The plan was for the float planes to depart when CTV’s Brian Williams was trying to say something, not you. The intern responsible for this catastrophe has been fired.

For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents. Wait. Vancouver accents too? Wow. We thought you were making fun of Newfies and/or French Canadians. This mimicry will not be taken lightly, eh.

For your unique TV commercials — for companies like Tim Hortons — which made us laugh and cry. Oh my goodness I first saw the one with the immigrant family from Africa on a plane and embarrassed myself by sobbing and hugging the person next to me. Luckily, she was crying too.

For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. What’s an automatic weapon? Just kidding. Vancouver actually has a horrible gang problem. Not kidding. Seriously, though, the police went above and beyond during the Games and, in many peoples’ opinions, changed their reputation within Canada’s cultural landscape.

For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games — you’ve made wearing your name a cool thing to do. Agreed. Are you surprised, though? We’ve been toque-making for centuries up here.

For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display. Again, we apologize for winning all those gold medals. Sorry.

For not honking your horns. I didn’t hear one car horn in 15 days — which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting. First, could you really hear anything with all those float planes flying by? Second, everybody got scared of potential traffic and took public transit into town. Third, many, many people honked when Team Canada won the hockey game. These people were probably not from New York.

For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years. People from around the world really, really, really liked Seinfeld.

For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy. He says the same thing about you. And someone from this blog may or may not have started a rumour that Canada’s Brian Williams is your uncle.

For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary. We’ve all been to airports and we all know you probably don’t fit the profile of someone who gets their cavity searched, Mr. Williams – but it’s awfully nice of you to empathize with those who do as well as compliment these machines that go for $250,000 a piece.

For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one. Fun fact: those “rings” were actually the different recycling bins from City Hall with the bottoms cut out and turned sideways. The intern who swam out to the barge and turned the lights to gold 14 times did a way better job than the float plane guy.

For always saying nice things about the United States…when you know we’re listening. Well, people up here really like this Obama guy. Could you tell your countryfolk to stop screwing it up, please? Thanks.

For sharing Joannie Rochette with us. “Glowing hearts” was redefined in a the most beautiful way by her indescribable courage. This was a very, very nice thing to say, Mr. Williams. Thank you.

For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society. You know, we don’t actually hug each other this much on non-Olympic days. Hey, you’re welcome. It’s not easy being so community-minded. But the hugs, friendly police and smug sense of Europeanish superiority help us get through it.

Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us. Amazing. So, since we’re friends, can I stay with you in New York? And, um, do you know Jon Stewart?

To all the Canadians out there, I encourage you to let Mr. Williams know how much his thoughtful note meant to our national community! You can email your You’re Welcome note by following this link or send a hand-written card to this address:

NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

Now get out there, get writing and have fun with it!

- JCH