A FOOTBALL project to help people affected by homelessness has kicked off.
The North East Homeless Football Initiative, run by North East Athletic, hopes to rebuild the lives of homeless people, as well as boost their confidence and fitness.
Twice weekly sessions have now been set up at The Sports Domes in Seaton Carew, as well as several other sites across the region and organisers say they have been a success with over 100 individuals turning out.
Bosses now want more people who have been affected by homelessness to get in touch and join the scheme.
Mal Maclean, secretary of North East Athletic, said: “We support anyone who’s homeless now or has been in the last three years. Some of those involved are sleeping rough on the street, but they represent a minority of those classified as homeless.
“Others are living in hostels or are being supported by a housing project, have no settled address or are sleeping on the sofas of friends – they are the hidden homeless.”
North East Athletic is a charity dedicated to helping those recovering from addictions get their lives back on track. They have the support of Tees Valley Leisure and funding from Sport England and SPORTA, an initiative that backs social enterprises through leisure.
“The obvious benefit to providing regular sessions is fitness, but there’s also discipline, behaviour, teamwork and confidence,” says Mal.
“For many it’s a distraction from their day-to-day struggles, while for others it keeps them off the streets and on the straight and narrow.
“The changes we’ve seen in people are absolutely remarkable, such as a marked reduction among our regulars in drug-use and offending.”
After the initiative’s launch in Seaton Carew, a major tournament was set up that attracted teams from all over the area.
The final saw North East Athletic Newcastle beat Teeside-based Lifeline in the final on penalties but Mal stressed the most important results were those off the pitch.
He said: “Those who benefit from the scheme have told co-ordinators that it has kept them alive.
“That’s very humbling to hear and emphasises how important this initiative is.”
The initiative is open to men and women aged 18 and over, for more information about sessions in Hartlepool call 07523114039.