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How a World Cup Hero Escaped Homelessness

“The most annoying thing about being homeless is that you get judged without people knowing your story. That was the hardest thing for me. Sometimes it just happens. You can lose your job or your family.”

Those are the words of Fara Williams, subject of Donald McRae’s November 2014 article in The Guardian and the record holder for most games played for England’s national football team. Following a family breakdown, Williams became homeless and estranged from her mother for nine years.

“I certainly put a barrier up,” says Williams about this chapter of her life. “I never smiled. […] And when I had that wall up I pretended I was too hard to cry. I see it when I train homeless girls today. They have the same wall but the important thing is to treat them as normal people—and don’t look down on them. I was lucky I had football. A lot of homeless girls don’t have that hope.”

Williams and her mother have since reunited, and Williams has risen to soccer super-stardom; leading her club team Liverpool to back-to-back FA Women’s Super League titles in 2013 and 2014, and serving as a role model for girls all across the United Kingdom.

McRae’s article details Williams’ incredible transition, and elaborates on her genuine sense of hope. Indeed, Williams never gave up because, in her own words, “Football never allowed me to. I had that focus and belief I was good at something. That’s an incredible thing when it feels like you’ve got nothing else.”

[pq]How might you inspire a genuine sense of hope in the lives of the homeless?[/pq]

To fully appreciate the weight of those words, one must imagine themselves in Williams’ situation and ask: If I were homeless, what would prevent me from giving up? What would keep me away from drug addiction? From alcoholism? If I had no family support, no apparent financial opportunities, and no one to tell me how to escape homelessness, where would I find the strength to persevere? Asking yourself these things will not only help you fully appreciate just how amazing Williams’ life has been, it will also help you understand the struggle that the world’s homeless deal with every single day.

If you feel called to help the least fortunate in our society, consider asking yourself one more question: How might I inspire a genuine sense of hope in their lives? Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan in Detroit, is one of many who have managed to do just that. Her business has given homeless women in her community a chance to earn their own success and to appreciate the incredible value of a life that had previously felt worthless.

You don’t have to be a job creator to make a difference, however. Your inspiration can be small. From taking the time to acknowledge the homeless instead of ignoring them (see AEI’s Kevin Corinth on this topic), donating a small amount to your church or a local charity every month, or even spending an hour a week volunteering at a homeless shelter. Your efforts might seem insignificant to you, but they could make a world of difference to a fellow soul who has grown used to people looking down at them, or worse, never looking at them at all.

Not every homeless person got that way as a result of irresponsible or immoral behavior, and not every homeless person will grow up to become the next Fara Williams. Regardless of what the homeless have done or what they have the potential to do, you should never underestimate the impact that your contribution, however small it may be (Mark 12:41-44), can have on their lives.

In the wise words of Veronika Scott: “No matter what you have gone through, you still can do a lot with what you have.” This is true of the homeless, and it’s equally true of those who want to help them.