'Ending Homelessness is a Team Sport'

Photograph of a young goalie.
Nick, a young player on the Sacramento, CA, men's team, jumps to celebrate a good play. On the field, he alternates between goalkeeper and forward; off the field, he has reconnected with his family in Florida, found housing, and begun working to recruit new players to his Street Soccer team.

For homeless youth, playing soccer with Street Soccer USA is the equivalent of a corner kick: A new start after the ball has gone out of bounds. Street Soccer partners with youth and adult homeless programs in about 20 cities. Throughout the year players, who must be 15 and older, develop their own goals, and their coaches and teammates help them stay on track.

"The core of what we do is during practices," says Lawrence Cann, Street Soccer's founder. "We see the trauma, and as coaches we can find out what's wrong and connect people back to the services they need."

Each June, players bring the spirit of teamwork and mutual support to the annual Street Soccer USA Cup, known as the SSUSA Cup. Though one team takes home the title, no one really loses.

In collaboration with Cann and his organization, NCFY put together this slideshow of photos and stories of young people who played in the 2011 tournament, held in Washington, DC. In the June 2012 tournament, 24 teams will represent 20 different cities.

Photo credits: Rich Qualters, Street Soccer USA

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