Crafting to End Homelessness

Free Beer Movement and Homeless World Cup event headline NASSM Conference

Beer and soccer combine forces to end homelessness at NASSM

The Homeless World Cup uses the power of football to energize homeless people so they can change their own lives.
The Homeless World Cup uses the power of football to energize homeless people so they can change their own lives. Photo courtesy of Homelessness World Cup

It’s not the renowned MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, but Austin will still be invaded by plenty of sports nerds this week — with “free” beer in tow. 

The North American Society of Sports Management has its annual conference in Austin May 30 through June 1. Academics from all over the country to present topics ranging from “Women’s Rugby: Motivation for Females to Consume and Participate in the Sport of Rugby” to “A Qualitative Examination of the Work-Life Interface of Coaching Fathers."

If sitting through nerdy sports sessions doesn’t interest you, perhaps the pre-conference event will.

Planned by Austinites Dan Wiersma and Brian Gonzales and entitled “Good Brews, Social Change,” the event on Wednesday night event is the two soccer fans' way to roll out the red carpet for the keynote speaker of the conference, Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young, whose organization works with partners around the world "to provide support and guidance in football and management skills, which have a positive impact on the lives of homeless and excluded people all around the world."

From 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for a $20 donation to the Homeless World Cup, attendees get up to five free pours from Hops & Grain’s selection of local craft brews, ranging from their Greenhouse beers to their Zoe Pale Lager.

Wiersma, founder of the Free Beer Movement, a nationwide grassroots movement which aims to connect fans to the sport of soccer through the purchase of craft brews, said this event fits perfectly with the Austin culture.

“Three years ago, there were only three craft breweries in Austin,” Wiersma said. “Today, there are twelve in Austin proper. Austin is experiencing a huge growth in craft beer, and events like these, combined with the recently passed beer bill in the Texas Legislature will only help confirm the notion that Austin is a solid craft beer city.”

This is the Free Beer Movement’s first venture into mobilizing beer and soccer for social good. Wiersma said that he’s done some small charity donations from his online FBM retail sales, but wanted to move into large types of charity engagements.

Wiersma also noted that Hops & Grain was the perfect venue, having been a past World Beer Cup winner.

Gonzales, the Program Director for UT’s Sport and Development Lab, spent many hours trying to book Young as the keynote speaker. He is also hoping this event, along with the social entrepreneurship luncheon Thursday afternoon, which features many Austin non-profits liked CARITAS Austin and Front Steps, will be able to reignite the desire for an Austin chapter of Street Soccer USA, an organization that aims to end homelessness with the help of sports, and serves as a US qualifier for the Homeless World Cup.

“Street Soccer USA has been very successful in helping the homeless get back on their feet,” Gonzales said. “Some people in the program were former Division 1 soccer stars who fell on hard times, and by giving them the opportunity to play for something, it serves as a catalyst in helping them take back their lives.”

One can only be in the Street Soccer USA program for two years, but Gonzales noted that 75 percent of those who went through the program got a job or bought a house within two years, with some even becoming coaches in the program.

More details can be found on the event’s Facebook page.