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I met Caleb Olson this afternoon. He was sitting in Baddeaux’s with his two friends, Shane Shackelford and David Herscovici. They aren’t from around here. They are from New York City and they have a story to tell.
As of this afternoon they had been on the road for nine days; nine days into a trip that will take them across the United States as they raise awareness of, not just the plight of the homeless in this country, but the success of one non-profit in its battle to help those that are homeless. The three of them belong to Street Soccer USA.
Street Soccer USA is an organization whose ultimate goal is social change. They use soccer and the lessons that organized sports offers to build leadership skills and confidence in underserved and homeless youths and young adults. The program works, and it works well. This year 20 teams from 16 cities that are combatting homelessness will play in a tournament in San Francisco called the Street Soccer USA National Cup. This play will crown a champion and determine who will go to Santiago, Chile to participate in the Homeless World Cup for 2014. Forty-eight other nations will have their teams there. It is a big deal, to say the least.
SSUSA is based in New York city, but they are in Richmond,Virginia as well. There is a particularly bad homeless problem in Richmond. There has been for as long as I can remember. SSUSA has helped some 700 people make positive changes in their lives. They have either gotten GEDs, taken care of substance abuse or mental health issues, or found a job, essentially taken steps in the right direction. All because they came out and played sports for an hour or so in the afternoon with someone that cared about their situation enough to do something besides talk about it. It is amazing what someone can accomplish with just a little encouragement. The Richmond Rebels, SSUSA’s team in our Capitol city, is made up of members aged 19 to 58, and they are excited this year; they are going to Chile to compete in the tournament.
While I listened to the three guys in Baddeaux’s talk about their job, I could see how much they believed in what they were doing. They were not giving anything away in the conventional sense of the phrase, those they helped earned everything that came their way. That’s the way it should be. The goals that they attained in life were like the goals that they scored on the field. They worked hard for them, those closest to them assisted when they could, and the result made them feel better each time.
Lawrence Cann was on to something when he started this program down in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2004. This program works.
Caleb, Shane and David are on their way down to Charlotte and I am sure they will make it to San Francisco just fine, eventually. I am glad they don’t have an itinerary though. I am sure they will be playing a pick up game whenever they get the chance.