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Sacramento hosts Homeless World Cup to change perceptions of homelessness

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(The Center Square) – In a bid to change perceptions on and encourage rehabilitation of the homeless, Sacramento, California is hosting the 2023 Homeless World Cup, a soccer tournament with national teams of players from around the world who have been homeless within the past year.

The event, which runs from July 11 to July 15, 2023 is returning from a three-year post-pandemic hiatus and has drawn teams representing 30 nations playing in men’s, women’s and coed teams in a modified, fast-paced tournament setting. Played on fields the same size as a tennis court in teams of four, the event’s games are designed to train recently homeless individuals the power of hard work, routine and engaging in team environments.

With over 100,000 individuals from across the world trying out for the roughly 500 player positions in this year’s tournament, the Homeless World Cup is an international phenomenon.

But against the backdrop of the Homeless World Cup’s success is the state of homelessness in Sacramento, where the tournament is being held, and California as a whole, where there are more than 170,000 homeless individuals. By some estimates, homelessness in Sacramento increased 68% between 2020 and 2022, a situation that continues to worsen despite growing attempts at providing aid and support.

According to recent reports, California spent $17.5 billion on homelessness programs from 2018 to 2022, with homelessness increasing 13% from the start of Governor Newsom’s tenure. Even with the added resources, homelessness remains a major challenge in California.

The day after the start of the tournament, Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper shared several updates on Sacramento homelessness and the department’s Homeless Outreach Team. During one five-day deployment in May, the Homeless Outreach Team reached out to 198 local homeless individuals to provide them with assistance and services, with only one accepting help.

“Homelessness is the number one issue in California,” Cooper said. “The folks that want help, we’ve helped. In the last four years, we’ve spent $17.5 billion on homelessness and it has gotten worse.”

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