Soccer for homeless takes aim at street community

Whether or not it achieves lofty goals of getting people off drugs, off alcohol and into jobs, Victoria Street Soccer is a way to have fun, its organizer said.”If someone comes to this and chooses to stop using drugs, stop living a life of crime … it’s (been) their own choice to turn around their life and get healthy,” said Katie DeRosa, the Victoria woman launching a gathering of local homeless people who play soccer on Sundays. “I think this could encourage people to turn their life around because it’s a physical demand they haven’t had before.”DeRosa first heard of street soccer from an article she read about an Ontario team. Upon further research, she learned about Vancouver Street Soccer. A team of homeless men from that league competed in the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last year.Victoria Street Soccer will host co-ed games at George Jay elementary school’s soccer pitch from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays. A group of volunteers will set up the pitch and help provide equipment, including balls and shoes.The players will go through warm-ups and drills before games get underway. Players who are high or drunk will be turned away, but encouraged to come back next week, DeRosa said.Food and water are provided for the players and no soccer experience is necessary.DeRosa said the team mentality could be what it takes to get some people from the local street community to stop their pattern of substance abuse.”They have their team to encourage them, rather than a social worker, an AA person or their corrections parole officer,” she said, adding, “I wanted to give these players a chance to interact with other members of society, who they wouldn’t normally interact with.”Participation is voluntary, but if the idea becomes popular, it could rival Vancouver’s league of eight teams.DeRosa hopes enough players and volunteers will come out to form a men’s and a women’s team with a regular contingent of players.Victoria Street Soccer practices start Sunday, March 6. Volunteers and equipment donors can contact victoriastreetsoccer@gmail.com or find Victoria Street Soccer on Facebook.ecardone@vicnews.com