Meet Mel Young: Social Entrepreneur, football enthusiast and promoter of the #homeless Daily since December 2010.

Back in December our team met Social Entrepreneur Mel Young at LeWeb conference in Paris. Mel was looking for opportunities to promote his organization, The Homeless World Cup , and international football tournament that uses the sport of soccer as a catalyst to encourage homeless people to change their lives and beat homelessness.  Mel’s cause is inspiring and a story worth sharing. So this week, no features or functionality. It’s a post about an interview with a member of the Paper.li community.

Q: How did the Homeless World Cup begin?

Mel: In 2001 I was attending the International Network of Street Papers conference in South Africa. Another delegate, Harold Schmeid, and I went for beer afterwards and started brainstorming about the need for a conference that included the homeless, not just spoke about the issues surrounding them. But the language was always an issue. How could we invent an international language that we could use to communicate the issues of homeless around the world? Then it dawned on us that one already existed with football.

One thing led to another and by morning it was agreed that we would organize a one-off football tournament for the homeless. 18 months later the first Homeless World Cup was played in Graz, Austria, hosting 18 nations. The Austrian team won and their centre forward Angus Okanume went on to play for a professional team.

Q: What opportunity did you see for the Homeless World Cup?

Mel: There are huge issues and system failures today in supporting the homeless. We don’t know how to fix them, but we can do some things – simple things -to facilitate change. Just the hope of a good moment can change a person. Sport unites people and sport is inclusive, which combats the social exclusion that the homeless feel.

Q: How do you get the word out?

Mel: Through partner organizations such as the homeless papers, local shelters and word on the street.

Q: What are your thoughts on the role of social media?

Mel: More and more we see the homeless reaching out for phones, before food. Social media is a way for us to reach out the them, and them to others and us. The homeless can quickly connect and build communities through technology.

Q: How do you use paper.li?

Mel: Currently we contribute to the #homeless Daily. We use this to keep current and as well as educate and inform partners on the global issue of homelessness. We are looking into setting up local papers for each country in the future so we can focus on the issues close to the people.

Q: What is your goal for the Homeless World Cup?

Mel: Ultimately, not to have the need to raise awareness for homelessness through events such as a Homeless World Cup.Until then, to inspire and mentor our players into making positive change for themselves and put on a world class homeless tournament each year.

80% of people who participate in the Homeless World Cup change their lives forever. It is proud moment when someone can talk about their involvement in the training or that played in the tournament itself. It gives them the confidence to go out and apply for a job – and land the job. We try to identify leaders and they come back as coaches and brilliant ambassadors.

Our head coach, David Duke tried out and played on the team in 2004. Afterwards he went on to get his Scottish Football Association coaching badges and in 2006 became the head coach of the Scottish Team.

There are David Dukes in every city of every country.

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