Why it’s important to include LGBTQ programming in anti-poverty and anti-homelessness initiatives
From October 6 – 14, Mexico City hosted the Homeless World Cup, an annual soccer tournament designed to raise awareness of poverty issues, which is played by teams made up of homeless and socially-disadvantaged people from around the world. 2012 was the event’s 10-year anniversary, with teams from 54 nations participating. The opening weekend attracted over 50,000 spectators.
The Homeless World Cup Foundation works with a network of 73 national partners to support football (or “soccer,” to Americans) programs and social enterprise development. Based on the idea that soccer is an effective tool to combat poverty and homelessness, these national partners reach out to homeless and socially disadvantaged people in their communities and provide skills development, support, and training. Though selection criteria vary country-to-country, some players from within these programs are offered the opportunity to travel to the Homeless World Cup.
An LGBT identity can increase a person’s risk of living in poverty or being homeless, especially for youth.
Consider these data from the U.S., Canada, and Britain.
According to an American report released in July 2012 by the Williams Institute in collaboration with the True Colors Fund and the Palette Fund, nearly all (94%) of homeless youth providers report serving LGBTQ youth. The report, which was based on 381 respondents representing 354 agencies across the United States, concluded that LGBTQ youth made up approximately 40% of the clientele served by these agencies. In Canada, an estimated 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ (source: The Homeless Hub), and the U.K.’s Homeless Link‘s 2011 Survey of Needs and Provision identified 7% of clients in an average project as LGBTQ.
Despite these numbers, there was no visible LGBTQ programming or information at the Homeless World Cup, so on October 11 — National Coming Out Day in the U.S. — I put on my Football v Homophobia T-shirt and went to the Zocalo where the matches were taking place. Football v Homophobia is an initiative of the UK-based organization The Justin Campaign – named after the world’s first male out pro footballer, Justin Fashanu – which is designed to raise awareness and combat homophobia and transphobia in football.
The Homeless World Cup Foundation has very specific goals for the coming years: They want to involve one million players across 100 nations by 2014. The Foundation knows that football (soccer) is effective because “[w]hen a homeless person gets involved in football they communicate and build relationships with others; they become teammates, learning to trust and share; they have a responsibility to attend training sessions and games, to be on time and prepared to participate. They feel part of something.”
Allies and advocates can help by supporting the activities of the Homeless World Cup, and by asking for the implementation of LGBTQ-specific information, resources, and programming (like a Pride House, for example).
It’s like the shirt says: Football for everyone.
Keph Senett is a Canadian writer whose passions for travel and soccer have led her to play the beautiful game on four continents. When not writing about human rights, soccer/football, LGBT and gender issues and her own folly at kephsenett.com, Keph’s writing about travel over at A Bus Called Forward. Keph spends her free time trying to figure out how to qualify for a soccer squad in Asia, Australia or Antarctica.
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