Everitt Harry Johnson â€“ New Zealand
18 months before the Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup Everitt Harry Johnson was living rough either behind or on the front porch of a University building. After representing his country in Sport he is off the streets addressing his addictions and with a new goal to go back to University to complete his degree. Here he shares his story:
â€œAt any given time there would be as many as 7 or 8 of us staying on the steps of the University building. It was an experience I would rather forget as it made me feel at times rather hungry, very angry, sometimes lonely and always tired.
I was introduced to drugs at the age of 13. My father was an alcohol abuser and I picked up the drinking habit during my first year at High School. It was common to start drinking at an early age, especially if you wanted to be part of the in crowd while at High School. My drug of choice for the last 25 years has been mainly marijuana and/or LSD.
The Melbourne 2008 Homeless World Cup not only offered me the opportunity to represent my country in sport, it also motivated me to get off the streets, deal with my addictions and try to get back on track in terms of what I really want to achieve in life.
So In February 2009 I entered an 8-week residential alcohol and drug recovery program. After successfully completing the recovery program I moved to a boarding hostel for men for 2 months. I am now living in my own flat in Auckland City. My goal now is to get back to my studies and finish my University degree.
Going to Melbourne and representing my country at the Homeless World Cup gained my team mates and me a considerable amount of respect. I was really proud of what we achieved. We may not have won a lot of games (won 2 and lost 10), but we won over a lot of people from all over the world. My team mates and I now have friends in the United States, Finland, Poland, England and Australia.
The Homeless World Cup helped me change my life. It offered me a â€˜once in a lifetime opportunityâ€™ to realize a dream and change my ways.