It's a small step from the streets of New York to the bright lights of the soccer field, the New York Times finds in a look at Street Soccer USA, a nonprofit that's giving homeless men the chance to pull themselves up by their cleat-straps. The 16-city network turns shelter residents, suffering from a lack of exercise and a surplus of despair, into confident teammates in matching red jerseys networking with the white-collar corporate teams they're playing—and making strides toward integrating back into society.
Founder Lawrence Cann, himself a college soccer standout, lays down ground rules when recruiting his ragtag players: no getting drunk or high before practice, call out the name of your receiver, and keep the coach up to date about how you're doing. It's not “a return to being normal, but it makes me feel like myself again,” says one player. “Two weeks ago, that was the first time that I forgot. I forgot where I was and what was going on.” So far, one player has gone home to his family, and another scored a job and apartment.