Denver Street Soccer: Ending Homelessness Through Sport
Sarah A. Rumple November 2010 University of Colorado at Denver
Rumple Homelessness. The word terrifies most people. Imagine what it must be like not to have a home to shelter you from the weather, to store your belongings, to create memories with your family. Unfortunately, there are far too many people in Denver that donâ€™t have to imagine being homeless because they experience it everyday. According to Denverâ€™s Road Home, a program which is attempting to end homelessness in Denver, there were more than 6,600 homeless men, women and children living in Denver in January of 2009. This is a huge number, especially considering that the U.S. Census Bureau claims there are almost 600,000 people living in Denver County. This means that roughly one percent of Denver County residents do not have anywhere to live. The Website homelessamerican.com claims there are more than 643,000 homeless people in America. With outrageous numbers like these, something must be done to help stop this epidemic. There are several great organizations that are attempting to end homelessness in Denver. One of the newest of these is Denver Street Soccer (DSS), whose mission is to help end homelessness by teaching life skills and life lessons through sport. The program invites homeless and troubled youth to play on the Denver Street Soccer team. By joining the team, these youth are provided with a family-like support group that helps to build relationships of trust and stability. The coaches and staff of DSS challenge players both on and off the field by creating an environment where players are expected to show up to practices and games on time and start taking control of their personal lives by enrolling in school or getting a job. Players are held accountable for their actions and, through the program, are able to build character, confidence and hope for the future. DSS began only about seven months ago and already some players have begun to turn their
Rumple lives around by going back to school, holding down jobs and even getting apartments of their own. It is a very positive organization which promises to have a real impact on the lives of Denver’s underprivileged youth, which is why I chose to complete my service requirement for Senior Seminar with them. I first met Brandon Sejera, President of DSS, at a local coffee shop to discuss some of the needs of the organization. The list he provided was a long one – he was in need of quite a bit of help to get his organization up and running. A lover of writing, I volunteered to take on some of the writing needs. Because DSS is a non-profit, a donation letter was at the top of Brandon’s list of things that needed to be done in order to secure financing for needed equipment, marketing materials and league fees. I began working on the donation letter fairly quickly, but was interrupted by another urgent need – the team was creating a promotional video of the players and Brandon needed me to write five questions which the players could answer during the video. I finished writing the questions, and eventually finished the donation letter as well. My final project with DSS was to create a marketing flyer to display at league games, Colorado Rapids games and other various locations around town in order to drum up support for the organization. I was pleased with the work I did for DSS, and hope to have the ability to continue supporting this amazing organization in the future. They are definitely in need of volunteers. The following pages show the specific projects I completed during my service with DSS. The first is the donation letter, written to ask for financial assistance, volunteers and mentors for the organization. The second is a list of five questions, written to ask the players during a promotional video about the team. Finally, you’ll see the marketing flyer I created to raise awareness of homelessness in our community.
Rumple **DONATION LETTER**
Dear Denver Street Soccer Supporter, Most people play soccer because they enjoy it, because it helps them to stay in shape, because it’s a fun activity to participate in during one’s spare time. Now, in Denver, there is a whole new reason for some of the city’s most underprivileged residents to play soccer – it provides a new outlook on life. The Denver Street Soccer program works with other local organizations to help improve the lives of homeless and troubled youth. We provide the players with a family-like support group that helps to build relationships of trust and stability. The players are taught valuable life lessons – specifically how to manage team and personal demands, expectations and accountability, and the importance of work ethic and goal setting. The program encourages these individuals to work hard in order to provide themselves with a positive and bright future. The Denver Street Soccer program has already begun to have a positive impact on our player’s lives. Some of our players have started working, returned to high school or college, and moved into apartments of their own. The soccer team has also been improving exponentially, as we were able to represent Denver in the national Street Soccer USA tournament in July. We cannot continue this important work alone. We need the support of our community to continue making a difference for underprivileged youth in the Denver area. Sports and recreation equipment are expensive, and the youth involved in our program depend on us to provide the necessary equipment, coaching and training. Your financial contribution would immediately be put to good use in some of the following ways: • • • • •
$____ will help purchase jerseys and practice gear. $____ will provide cleats and indoor soccer shoes for our players. $____ will help to provide goals, balls and other equipment. $____ will help us pay for indoor league fees and a practice facility. $____ will help us purchase marketing materials and equipment for an information booth.
We are also looking for volunteers, interns and mentors for our program. Please join in our efforts to end homelessness in Denver. Your generosity is vital in helping us to continue providing this life-changing program. For more information, or to donate, please visit us at www.denverstreetsoccer.org. Thank you for your interest in Denver Street Soccer. Because of supporters like you, young homeless men and women in the Denver area are being given the opportunity to learn life lessons in a whole new way – through sport.
The Denver Street Soccer Team and Staff
Rumple **PROMOTIONAL VIDEO QUESTIONS**
PROMOTIONAL VIDEO QUESTIONS: 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your name and how old are you? 2. How long have you been involved with Denver Street Soccer? 3. What happened in your life that led you to the Denver Street Soccer program? 4. Has the program had a positive effect on your life? How? 5. What do you hope for your future?
Rumple **MARKETING FLYER**
Rumple Working with Denver Street Soccer has really opened my eyes to the issue of homelessness. I have lived near downtown Denver since 2004 and have often seen homeless people standing with their signs on street corners. I have seen them pushing grocery carts around town. There was a homeless man that used to sleep on the street bench outside our old loft downtown – even in frigid weather. I would watch him from our window as he set up his tarp to place over the bench as he slept, trying to keep out the cold and snow. I told my husband that we should let him in to sleep on the couch, only to be told that my idea was crazy. It may have been an unrealistic idea, but I didn’t know what else to do to help the man at the time. Living downtown, I was constantly being asked for money by people at the gas station or on the 16th Street Mall. After a while, you begin to lose your compassion. I once told a man who was asking for money to “get a job”. How could I have been so heartless? My experience with Denver Street Soccer has shown me that the people affected by homelessness are people – just like you and I. They are often victims of unfortunate circumstances, having lost their job or been struck by mental illness. As I was attending Denver Street Soccer meetings and completing the tasks I was assigned, I was constantly reminded of the great need for volunteers in our community. Service is one of the most important and valuable things someone can do to give back. There are hundreds of local organizations that are attempting to better the world and they need as much help as they can get. During my service learning experience I was also reminded of the importance of communication. I think that when Brandon met me, he was expecting for me to take on a much larger role in the organization than I was able to commit to. As a full time student, full time mom, freelance writer and member of several other organizations, I wasn’t able
Rumple to commit to meeting every week and taking a leadership role within the organization. Half-way through the semester, I began a conversation with Brandon regarding my availability. He completely understood the situation and everything ended on a very positive note. I can see, however, how the situation could have ended much differently if I had not engaged in open, honest communication with him. Concluding, I am so happy that I was given the opportunity to help Denver Street Soccer with some of their writing requirements. I was able to meet some amazing people and gained a new perspective on the homeless community in Denver. Many of the homeless youth are only in need of someone to take them under their wing and help them stand on their own two feet. DSS is doing just that. It has been inspiring to see some of the DSS players grow and learn to become happy, successful and independent citizens of the Denver community.
Denverâ€™s Road Home Website. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.denversroadhome.org. Homeless American Website. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.homelessamerican.com. U.S. Census Bureau Website. 2010. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov.