When Stephanie joined the team she had outstayed her welcome at the Salvation Army Womenâ€™ Shelter and was camping out in an abandoned building. At 45 years old Stephanie was not only the oldest player on our team, but one of just three women. Despi
Stephanie, USA 2005
Stephanie Johnson was a member of USA team at the Edinburgh 2005 Homeless World Cup and here she speaks to the USA team managers one year on afer the tournament:
When Stephanie joined the team she had outstayed her
welcome at the Salvation Army Womenâ€™ Shelter and was camping out in an
abandoned building. At 45 years old Stephanie was not only the oldest player on our team, but one of just three women.
Despite never having played soccer, she learned quickly and soon began teaching technique to new team members as well as counselling younger members of the team on how to roll with the punches that life throws.
Stephanie said that being on the team helped her connect back to a better time in her life when she was a school teacher and child care professional.
Everything started to go Stephanieâ€™s way last Spring. She earned a spot on the final travel roster to the Edinburgh 2005 Homeless World Cup, she was accepted into a transitional housing program, she started working full-time at Green Tree Hotel and most importantly she got back in touch with her only son in Baltimore.
The Homeless World Cup was the pinnacle. Stephanie says: â€œFor the first time in a long time, I felt important. Having been a part of that gave me the confidence to face people again, to face the world.â€
However, upon her return, all the good luck seemed to end. Stephanie was attacked by a deranged woman who had not taken her mental health medications. Threatened by the large woman, Stephanie pulled out a knife someone had given her: â€œI remember when I first ended up on the streets, this lady handed me a knife and said, â€˜youâ€™re homeless now, honey, youâ€™ll be needing this.â€™ I never thought Iâ€™d use it.â€ In self-defense Stephanie lashed out cutting the other womenâ€™s arm. As it turned out, the officer called to the scene filed charges against Stephanie and Stephanie was arrested for the first time in her life. Although she spent 6 days in jail, a representative from the team, Street Soccer 945 appeared on Stephanie's behalf, explained the incident and all charges were dismissed.
Stephanie lost her job due to the incident, but refused to fall back into the trap of homelessness. Her soccer connection again helped out, as County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts, a big supporter of Street Soccer 945, provided her with a job reference.
Today, Stephanie is a food and beverage manager in the new Uptown Arena in Charlotte. She worked hard to get to that position. She says: â€œItâ€™s a great job. All they want me to do is sit behind the computer and make sure everybody else is working, but I get up and show people how to do things all the time, let them know Iâ€™m paying attention.â€ Stephanie supplements her income as a waitress at Long Horn Steakhouse.
When asked what her main concerns are today she said, â€œFixing up my apartment. I still donâ€™t have anything but two chairs and an air mattress, but I did paint the kitchen blue, and the bathroom I painted grey and I made little black paw prints so it looks like a cat walked across the wall.â€
Stephanie is still in touch with the soccer team: â€œIt reminds me to stay out of bars and it helps me ease my anger and frustration. But back then the soccer team really opened my eyes to the world around me, that I wasnâ€™t the only homeless person and that I was truly afraid of responsibility. Now I want to give back, and hopefully I can stay involved with homeless soccer in some way.â€
Does Stephanie fear becoming homeless again? â€œIâ€™ve got enough of a head start now that I can save some money even if something bad happens. There are some dreams I have, like traveling a little bit, and opening a bakery, but if I were to try to do those things now, I could end up homeless, but maybe some day Iâ€™ll be in a position to try.â€