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.

Alan Bates

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

The doctor is in.

1. Who are you?

A sucker for punishment. After 13 years of university, I’ve finally had a real job for the last year and a half as a Psychiatry Resident at UBC. I’m currently working at St. Paul’s Hospital and continuing to learn things from supervisors and patients. Before starting medical school, I did a PhD in Neuroscience that focused on measuring EEG/brain waves in people with schizophrenia with the aim of trying to understand the illness better. Now I’m trying to combine research and clinical work so that each enhances the other.

2. What do you do for fun?

I’m always up for any kind of team sport. Soccer and ball hockey are probably my two favourites. It’s great to lose yourself in the excitement and unpredictability of sports, and victory and defeat are both so much better when shared with a team. I also like to watch hockey and go to movies and concerts with friends and family.

3. What’s your favourite community and why?

Portland FC forever! I’ve been fortunate enough to play with and coach this amazing soccer team of residents from Portland Hotel Society buildings and other hotels and shelters in the Downtown Eastside. I’ve seen skill, dedication, and most of all camaraderie beyond anything that I’ve seen on any other team. In addition to a great team, we’ve got a great network of volunteers as well, and it’s an honour to work with everyone. Look out Toronto and the rest of Canada, because we’re coming to the National Street Soccer Championships!

4. What is your superpower?

I’ve been told that my limerick-writing abilities are wasted in my current profession.

5. How does your power help you build community?

It’s fair to say that it’s crimeless

If in the end your message ain’t timeless

But if you’re going to spread reason

From season to season

You’d best be sure it’s not rhymeless

My three favourite things about Alan Bates are…

1. He’s cool as a cucumber. That’s sort of what has to happen when your dealing everyday with folks suffering from a dogs-breakfast of mental illnesses. Despite his ability to calmly help people deal with serious struggles, Alan’s also got a deep compassionate streak. He does what he does because he cares and that’s just groovy.

2. He’s a world class soccer coach. Alan is the master of drills. He’s a calm and structured voice in the sometimes unstructured community of Portland FC. He’s also got mad skills and a coach’s passion for his team. Take a recent tournament played in North Van. Portland was in dead heat with their arch rivals and the team was getting some suspect calls from the ref. Despite this, Alan managed to retain a strategic head while still moving to within millimeters of the sidelines and (in the time honored tradition of all great coaches) gestured wildly in an effort to advocate for our team – or so goes the word on the street.

3. He’s genuinely committed to making a difference. Over the past year I’ve practiced and played with Alan every week. It has been a terrific experience and I’ve constantly been impressed by his strong belief in the team and the good it is doing in a community he very obviously cares about. The Downtown Eastside needs more people like Alan and the profession of psychiatry needs more doctors like him.

…as told by Kurt Heinrich