Sacramento, Calif.: Lisa Wrightsman was a former college soccer player whose life was derailed by drug addiction before she eventually made her way back to the sport through a tournament for players from around the globe who have experienced homelessness.
Wrightsman qualified for the Homeless World Cup in Brazil. It was a competition that would forever change her life. When she returned to Sacramento, friends at the sober living facility where Wrightsman lived told her they wanted “to feel the way you look right now.”
“I actually started to feel valued,” she said. “The whole tournament kind of instills you with that.”
Wrightsman is now a coach for the U.S. women’s team in the Homeless World Cup. The tournament made its U.S. debut July 8 in the capital of California, a state home to the largest homeless population in the country. It runs through Saturday.
The tournament is being held after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, when homeless populations surged in many U.S. cities. In Sacramento alone, it increased 68% between 2020 and 2022.
Thirty countries are competing in the games with teams that include people who have lived on the streets to refugees to foster children.
They include Yuli Pineda, who moved to California from Honduras and was living with a foster family when she joined. Pineda said she’s found a sense of community playing for the U.S. team.