The Power of Football: Ending Homelessness
By Gerard O'Connor
Imagine waking up in a strange place every single day. When people imagine what homelessness looks like they picture an individual rough sleeping. The truth is, it could be a hostel, sofa surfing, a car, a park, an abandoned building, or maybe even a commercial bin. The daily struggle of gathering your life’s possessions and figuring out where your next meal is going to come from will eventually take its toll. This is the predicament that thousands of people across the UK face every day.
Through social media and various news reports more and more people are starting to notice the rising levels of homelessness, Rough sleepers are the visible face of homelessness, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. New figures show that there are more than 300,000 people officially recorded as homeless and one in three families are a month’s pay from losing their home.
The scale of the homelessness crisis is reaching epidemic levels and the problem now effects areas of society that go far beyond what people might imagine. There are many reasons including, but not limited to family breakdown, alcohol and substance abuse, relationship abuse, war and persecution and leaving care.
Since 2007, Liverpool Homeless FC have developed a unique and dynamic approach to making positive change on the lives of the regions homeless. LHFC is an FA Chartered Football Club which exists in affiliation with the Liverpool County FA and operates across the whole of Merseyside. The clubs Patron is former Premier League Referee – Chris Foy.
Liverpool Homeless FC was started by a group of like minded housing providers who felt that they could use football as a way of breaking the homelessness cycle and enhance the lives of some of Merseyside’s most vulnerable people.
One of the companies who was involved at its inception was New Start, a not for profit supported housing company based in Liverpool. New Start Director of Housing Ste Baynes has seen first-hand the opportunities that projects like this can offer. For many residents of such housing companies the opportunity to get active and be part of a team can provide the confidence and self-belief that they have been searching for.
Currently the LHFC league is made up of 18 homelessness organisations that operate across Merseyside, many of them hostels. Monthly ‘Match Days’ are held at the Powerleague Centre in Kirkdale, North Liverpool. Match Days are environments where players can express themselves and has seen players excel and even represent England at various Homeless World Cups around the world.
Once homeless and now England and Reading Ladies footballer Fara Williams has recently opened up about her struggles with homelessness and social exclusion. England’s most capped footballer overcame homelessness and forged a successful career in professional football. The former Chelsea, Charlton, Everton, Liverpool, and Arsenal midfielder was homeless for seven years, playing for England while moving into various hostels around London. Fara attributes football as her main reason for over coming homelessness and the focus and belief that she was good at something allowed her to succeed in her career and life.
While players dream of a chance to represent England and play for a professional club, Liverpool Homeless FC is about much more than that - inspiring societies socially excluded to feel accepted and become involved. By building issues such as homelessness, social integration, and employability into their football programme LHFC have had the ability to affect the lives of many people across Merseyside.
There are many football projects like Liverpool Homeless FC across the country which continue to have successful outcomes. None of this would be possible without the generosity and compassion of thousands of individuals, organisations, and companies, who give their time, funds, and goods to give an opportunity for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Since establishing the league, LHFC have broken many myths and stereotypes that surround the homeless and have successfully helped many players to access training & education opportunities as well as seeing them enter long term accommodation.
The success of LHFC is testament to all of the players and what they have achieved in spite of the barriers presented by homelessness and social exclusion.
If you are interested about LHFC’s work please visit: www.liverpoolhomelessfootballclub.com