Alan Bates knows the challenges of a soccer league for people affected by homelessness, but he’s also seen the positive effect it has had on those fallen on desperate times.
The president of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Bates is the Whitecaps nominee for the MLS Community MVP project, which includes nominees from 19 clubs across the league and will, based on fan voting, give $10,000 to the winner’s charity of choice.
Voting at the official MLS Soccer website began on July 2, and concludes Friday at 2 p.m.
As of Wednesday morning, Bates was third in the polls.
Bates feels that giving those people affected by homelessness an outlet such as soccer can pay dividends for both the individuals, and society as a whole.
“We find, through street soccer, people can get better housing, they get employment, it builds their confidence and improves their health,” he said.
Bates has even submitted the abstract research to the UBC psychiatry department and presented his findings at a conference in Honolulu.
The full results have yet to be published, but the abstract report indicates that of the 63 self-reports collected by Vancouver Street Soccer, 46 per cent of those players say they have seen an improvement in their physical health since joining the league.
Forty-two per cent said their mental health had also improved.
Street soccer has been in Vancouver for the last four years, said Bates. Players range from 15 years of age to 55, and both men and women can play. There are now nine teams that make up the VSSL.
Most of the players in the local league come from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but there are teams from Surrey and North Vancouver, as well.