The Portland FC Homeless Street soccer team is holding a vote-a-thon Thursday night trying to get head coach Dr. Alan Bates to the top of the Major League Soccer’s W.O.R.K.S. Community MVP competition.
“It’s unfortunate they have to put a name to it because it’s all about community but tonight we’re tackling it as a team,” said Bates.
A local resident physician, Bates kicked off the program for people affected by homelessness in Vancouver, growing the league to nine teams.
“It’s fun and it works,” he said. “We just try to create a soccer team, it’s not about trying to address specific problems like addiction or mental illness but we find that people make improvements in their lives and those things just come as a positive effect.”
The MVP grand prize of $10,000 could go towards equipment, meals at games and the next Homeless World Cup set for October in Mexico
“In some ways the World Cup is just the cherry on top, the weekly practices are really the core of the program and I think where the players gain most of the benefits knowing that the practice is on every week and their friends are going to be there,” he said.
With players ages 15 to 55 and from diverse backgrounds, Bates said everyone finds support in the team and it has also raised greater public awareness on issues of homelessness.
“Most people can’t identify with shooting heroine in an alley but mostly everybody can identify with playing soccer,” he said.
“You experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, scoring a goal or losing a game, and everybody feels those kinds of things. And it’s good practice for our players to feel those strong emotions in a safe setting where life goes on.”
The MLS W.O.R.K.S. Community MVP contest ends July 13 and votes can be cast on the league’s website.