Monday, July 06, 2015

Street Soccer Championships in Hamilton This Month

This story orignally appeared in North End Breezes, the community newsletter of Hamilton's North End.

A unique event is coming to Hamilton this month.
Street Soccer Canada will be running the National Homeless Championship. The games will be played in Gore Park on Saturday July 18th and Sunday the 19th.  Teams from Comox, Kelowna, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton and other cities are expected.
Players from this competition will be selected for the Homeless World Cup. 

That event will be held in Amsterdam this September.

In 2003, Mel Young, a Scotsman, and Harald Schmied, an Austrian, were attending a conference dealing with the future of street newspapers.  They came up with the idea of a Homeless World Cup. 

It is a different game than the traditional soccer (football) you’ll see at the Pan Am Games.

It is played four players a side on 16 metre x 22 metre court.  The game lasts 14 minutes (two seven minute halves.) A three-on-two rule, intended to promote scoring, has evolved so that only two players are allowed in their own defensive end.

To be eligible, players must have been homeless in the past year (in accordance with the national definition of homelessness,) make their living as street paper vendor, be Asylum seekers or in drug or alcohol rehabilitation (and also have been homeless.)

Changing Attitudes

The Homeless World Cup is more than a competition. It is designed to challenge societal attitudes towards homeless people.

In that context it is worth reflecting on the situation in Hamilton.

Here, over 3,100 individuals experienced homelessness – staying at some point in the past year in one of the City’s emergency shelters.

Hamilton is part of a national movement of communities led by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. The movement is mobilizing people to house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable people by July 1, 2018.  As part of that program, individual and families were interviewed this April. Four hundred and fifty four (454) individuals were canvassed by volunteers in Hamilton’s downtown streets, shelters and agencies.

Here are just a few facts from the survey that may surprise you.

• Two thirds of those interviewed had experienced homelessness for six months or longer.

• Seven percent of those surveyed had served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

• 266 of the individuals surveyed had visited hospital emergency rooms a total of 994 times in the previous 6 months.

Much work has to be done to solve our housing crisis.  Unlike other nations, Canada doesn’t have a national housing strategy.  Perhaps, we will hear about housing and homelessness during this fall’s federal election campaign.

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