43-year-old Yevgeni made Aliyah from Uzbekistan in 1995 and found it very difficult to adapt to Israeli society. He struggled to find a job and started hanging out on the streets, using drugs and getting into trouble with the police. He has been a drug addict for the last 23 years, and spent 17 of those in jail.
When Soccer For The Homeless (SFTH) found him at a shelter last year, he had no interest in accepting their support. It took their staff many weeks to convince him to commit to joining their football team and attending weekly training sessions. But it quickly became the highlight of his week and he now considers his teammates the family he never had.
With the help of the social workers and volunteers at SFTH, Yevgeni went through a long period of rehabilitation from drugs. In the last year, he has been ‘clean’ and goes to therapy every week. He is now living in a hostel, working as a housekeeper in Tel Aviv, and dreams of becoming an addiction counsellor to help others through similar challenging experiences.
WHY CHOOSE SFTH
Many of the people who join SFTH have suffered from alcohol or substance abuse, mental illness or other hardships which have left them without a home to live in or a family to support them.
Through the positive benefits of football training at SFTH – the commitment, the teamwork, the discipline and the strength building – each player develops their self-confidence, self-motivation, and self-worth.
And off the field, the staff and volunteers are in constant communication with the players helping them in their job searches, legal issues, rehabilitation processes, and general reintegration into society. With the support of SFTH and the love of their teammates, it gives them the impetus to get off the streets and move towards employment and self-sufficiency.