October 26, 2018

An Atlanta nonprofit is transforming vacant land under transit stations into soccer fields

Here are three stories on how local innovation can make a difference in everyday lives

Atlanta nonprofit Soccer In The Streets noticed vacant land near Atlanta's MARTA stations, like this one at the West End Station, and proposed turning them into mini soccer fields. Photo courtesy of Soccer In The Streets

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. Today, Atlanta turns vacant land into community gathering spots; a young author gets recognized for her inspiring work; and a Seattle councilmember proposes one solution to help fight the city’s homeless crisis. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tel us at info@therenewalproject.com.

No wasted space: Atlanta’s rail transit network, MARTA, has 38 stations that criss-cross one of the country’s most populous metropolitan areas. One of the by-products of this massive network is pockets of vacant land. But a local nonprofit has found a way to turn that land into usable community space.

Since 2016, Soccer in the Streets has been transforming vacant land under some of MARTA’s largest stations into soccer fields that now host children’s matches, adult leagues, and plenty of pick-up games. StationSoccer, a project of Soccer in the Streets, came about during a trip to the UK when Sanjay Patel, director of strategic projects for the nonprofit, saw how kids there were taking trains to get to soccer games. He thought, why couldn’t we do the same in Atlanta? So in partnership with the city and MARTA, StationSoccer was born.

“It’s just mind-blowing to see a community show up,” Patel told CityLab. “We’re seeing the community come out, families interacting socially, and it’s becoming a third space.”

The first Station Soccer field was built at Atlanta’s largest stop, Five Points, right downtown. The second field, at West End Station, also has plans to add classroom space, Tim Keane, Atlanta’s commissioner for city planning, told CityLab. Other large cities with public transit systems are taking notice—Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago have contacted Soccer in the Streets to learn about the project.

The soccer field at Five Points station, the nonprofit's first StationSoccer field, celebrates its two-year anniversary this week.

STEM Queen gets new crown: Sasha Ariel Alston, the college student who turned her love of coding into a book to inspire kids, has just added a new feather to her cap. The STEM Queen, as she’s known on social media, was named to the 22 Under 22 Most Inspiring College Women list by Her Campus. She was honored for her work to encourage more young women of color to get excited about STEM in school and to one day pursue a career in the field.

This is the fourth year that the online magazine for college women has produced the list. Past honorees have included social entrepreneurs, artists, and activists. This year’s list includes an aspiring politician, a poet, and the founder of a youth empowerment organization.

Her Campus was founded by three Harvard grads in 2009 and is written entirely by college journalists.

Emergency shelter: As the city of Seattle looks for solutions to manage an alarming homelessness crisis, a local lawmaker wants to borrow an idea from two California cities that are also dealing with the issue. Seattle councilmember Teresa Mosqueda proposed that the city build a temporary mass tent shelter to house some of the city’s homeless population. Temporary shelters in Los Angeles and San Diego are helping those cities manage growing homeless populations while local officials and nonprofit agencies work to secure permanent housing.

Mosqueda’s proposal, estimated at $3 million, would also be a temporary solution while the city council acts to implement an $86.7 million plan to invest in long-term solutions, including housing assistance programs and new shelters. “I offer this as one opportunity to explore as a potential way to get people inside.” Mosqueda told KING 5 News.

It’s been nearly three years since Seattle’s then-mayor declared a state of emergency due to its homelessness crisis. That year, the annual homeless count, known as the Point-in-Time count, reported 10,047 homeless individuals in King County. This year’s Point-in-Time count yielded 12,112, a nearly 20 percent jump.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.
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