Young Man Gets His Life Back With Help From...Soccer?

Young Man Gets His Life Back With Help From...Soccer?

(Novus writes inspirational stories of people in the news who have overcome addiction. This is not to infer that these people are connected to Novus Medical Detox Center but simply to provide hope and encouragement to those fighting addiction.)

Philip Jones was addicted to drugs and living on the streets of San Francisco for days at a time, and then seeking brief refuge at home with his mom. Philip had been abusing drugs since his teens - in fact he was selling pot in middle school - and it just kept getting worse. When he was 21, his mom finally kicked him out of the house. Philip Jones became a permanent resident of "no fixed address" in the city's notorious Tenderloin, Potrero Hill and Mission District neighborhoods. Philip's life of stealing to get money to score dope and stay stoned was only interrupted now and then by arrests for theft and drugs and brief stints in jail, he said. "By then, my personal drug use was to the point where it was a bit darker - being in abandoned houses, smoking meth all day, it got real dark," Philip told a reporter recently. "I'd be in and out of jail." For Philip Jones the future was pretty much no future at all - more drugs, more jail time and a pretty good chance of dying from an overdose. Then the most amazing and unexpected thing happened. Two years ago, he somehow had a realization that it just couldn't continue like this. Philip got himself into a rehab program. And then he discovered Street Soccer. Yes, soccer. And it has completely changed his life.

Teenage addiction and homelessness

Philip Jones's descent into teenage drug addiction, eventual homelessness and frequent brushes with the law, and his miraculous life-changing turnaround involving soccer of all things, is the core of a wonderful article on the e-magazine website< Titled " A young man rebounds from homelessness and drugs - with an assist from soccer," it's about San Francisco's enormously complex problem of homelessness among countless young people - teens and 20s and beyond - and the positive effects that a phenomenon called "Street Soccer USA" is having on that problem. The article is by Mashable's senior sports reporter Sam Laird, who covers sports from all angles for the website's San Francisco bureau. Laird's freelance work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Slam, and East Bay Express. Laird points out that a 2015 census by the San Francisco Homeless Count & Survey found more than 1,400 young people basically living "on the street." A quarter of San Francisco's homeless population first becomes so between 18 and 24, says Laird, and the city's overall homeless population in that age range is increasing, up from 15 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2015.

Street Soccer a genuine phenomenon

Street soccer is a genuine national phenomenon, and it owes its existence to brothers Lawrence and Rob Cann, founders of Street Soccer USA (SSUSA). When Rob and Lawrence were in elementary school, the family house burned down and the experience taught them how important community support can be. They both went on to play Division I college soccer, but have since dedicated their lives to use sport for social change. The brothers put together the first SSUSA chapter in 2006 in Charlotte, NC. Today SSUSA is booming in 16 cities with dozens of volunteers and staff serving roughly 300 young people a year in each city. The group provides life skills and a "social safety net" in neighborhoods generally ignored by most of society. Philip Jones had played soccer as a kid and really loved it. Then came drugs and all the rest of that scene. But one day in 2014, a representative from SSUSA dropped into the shelter where Philip was staying to talk about the SSUA program. It clicked with Philip right away, and he set off to find the park or the field, whatever it was. He said he became more desperate as he searched, "running around like a madman" through the streets. But he was just too stoned on crystal meth, his then drug of choice, to function rationally. He gave up and went back to the shelter. "Living on the streets, selling narcotics, using them even more, stealing, sleeping wherever he could," Laird writes. "It got real dark," Philip says.

After rehab came Street Soccer

That all changed after Philip entered rehab. He found the Street Soccer games, and sometimes watched friends playing. Because of the conditions of his program he wasn't allowed to join in. But since he finished rehab in 2014, he's been playing soccer ever since. In San Francisco, says Rob Cann, SSUSA serves about 75 homeless adults annually through its service centers, job training and soccer leagues and practices. And about 90 percent of the youth and adult participants are homeless when they join. Today, Philip is more than a player, he's a valued coach as well as a player. "He's cultivated a structure and support network through Street Soccer, recently traveled to Philadelphia to play in the organization's National Cup," Laird writes, "and was part of a group whose concept won an app design contest." Last Christmas, Philip's mom invited him to spend the night at home, for the first time since she asked him to leave three years ago. They mostly just hung out, nothing remarkable. But Philip is still "visibly touched" by the experience. "There's been times when I've been in jail or on the streets and woken up and felt like I wanted to die," he says. "But on those days I'd always think, 'No matter what I do in this world, there's one person who's going to always love me. She might not agree with me, but she's going to love me.'"

A bright new future

The young man's life has completely turned around. He's finished his first semester of school in half a decade and got As in both his classes, music and design. Clearly, Street Soccer USA has played a pivotal role in Philip Jones recovery. He's been sober for more than a year, and as almost every recovering addict will tell you, recovery always takes some help from somewhere. "It's being able to dedicate myself to something and understand that if I put positive energy toward something, I'm going to get positive things back," Philip says.

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