Shelter House has received a $28,000 grant from the Ontario Sports and Recreation Community Fund to start a Thunder Bay chapter of Street Soccer Canada.
The program will allow the city's homeless community and those living in poverty to have some fun playing soccer while improving their physical and social health.
Program coordinator Ken Miller said he hopes it gives people a safe place to forget about their everyday life.
"They don't have to worry about those things on the outside of soccer. They can come, hang out, forget whatever," he said.
"I want to get those people who don't normally come out and do stuff, the people who kind of sit back on their own. I want to grab those guys and bring them in with all the people that are already running around," Miller said.
"I want everyone to break out of their shells and run with it."
Shelter House executive director Patty Hajdu said while the organization has done a good job of providing the basics of shelter, food and clothing to the community, now they can give them something fun.
"A lot of times people are really stuck in a really hopeless place and this is an opportunity to inject some fun and some sense of community and some sense of pride," she said.
Shelter House had some help from Street Soccer Canada implementing the program to make sure they had the right equipment, training and structure.
SSC executive director and founder Paul Gregory said he's seen the effects the program can have and the benefits are great when it comes to physical health and wellness.
"They don't need you to say 'hey, stop smoking.' They just know 'hey, if I'm running around for an hour, I need to stop smoking,''" he said.
Players also get the benefits of being on a team and competing. There is the opportunity to play in national tournaments. There is even a Homeless World Cup that happens every year.
The program has several benefits, but Gregory said the most important is the spark of empowerment and hope it generates.
"I think that's the greatest goal of what the soccer program...provides," he said.
There isn't a set location yet for games in Thunder Bay and men and women of any age are welcome to play.
"If you're eight years old or 75, come and play," said Miller.
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