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.