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Inspiring Football

Published: Mon, 30 Nov 2015
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Welcoming the announcement were (standing) the Housing Executive's Liam Kinney, East Belfast Mission’s Aidan Byrne, Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, Mark McKelvey, local Chief Executive Ulster Bank - one of the project’s sponsors and Housing Executive's Anne Sweeney, along with Street Soccer NI player Kenny Flood and coach Steven Weldon.
Minister at Street Soccer announcement
A football inspired support programme that helped transform the lives of people who have experienced homelessness, has received a funding boost from us.
The charity, Street Soccer NI, has been given £10,000 to roll out its scheme to more people in need across Northern Ireland.
The Street Soccer NI project uses the power of football to inspire homeless people to make changes in their lives. Alongside football they offer support around housing, employability, addictions and more.
This new funding will mean an additional 30 people can benefit from football activities by the end of March 2016. Street Soccer NI aims to increase participation in its activities by expanding drop-ins to Ballymena, Dungannon, Bangor and Newry. There are also plans to develop a soccer academy which is currently being piloted.
The funding announcement was made earlier today during a 5-a-side tournament, which included a team from the Housing Executive, to mark Homelessness Awareness Week at Shaftesbury Recreation Centre in south Belfast.
Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey MLA kicked off the tournament and had the opportunity to meet a number of Street Soccer players.
Speaking during Homelessness Awareness Week the Minister said:
“As Minister with responsibility for housing I am committed to working with a number of statutory and voluntary groups to tackle homelessness.
“The Street Soccer NI initiative has shown that football is an excellent means to engage with the homeless and provide valuable support mechanisms for those who have felt vulnerable and marginalised in our society. Not only does Street Soccer NI provide physical and mental stimulation for participants but there are also opportunities to access training, education, employment and volunteering.
“I have been most impressed with the footballing prowess on display here today but what is also clearly evident from chatting to the players is how these young people, many who have faced turbulence and upheaval in their lives, have become much more confident members of our society who have bright futures ahead of them.”
Speaking about his experience of Street Soccer NI, Gerard Toner from Belfast, who competed in the Homeless World Cup, said:
“Early this year something terrible happened in my life and I had lost hope and my ambition. I had plans to take my own life and I had even tried to do so. Street Soccer has given me a new perspective on life and I have ambitions again to get ahead in life. I’ve got my own house now and I’m actively looking for work, I hope to secure a full time position soon.”
The charity runs weekly 5-a-side leagues from which teams are selected to compete internationally, including earlier this year taking part in the Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam. Its principal partners are East Belfast Mission and the IFA.
Aidan Byrne, manager of East Belfast Mission homelessness service, said:
“Homelessness sadly remains a serious problem in Northern Ireland that’s why it’s brilliant to see the great work being done by Street Soccer NI and the great outcomes they are having. I’ve been working in the homelessness sector for 10 years and this is certainly one of the most exciting projects I’ve seen.”
Our Homelessness Policy and Strategy Manager, Liam Kinney, said:
“We are very proud of the players’ achievements and the impact this project has in transforming the lives of those affected by homelessness. We have been working closely with Street Soccer NI for a number of years now and are delighted that thanks to this new funding more people will have the opportunity to avail of the project’s invaluable services.”
Sean Murphy from Ulster Bank, one of the project’s sponsors, said:  
“We got involved with Street Soccer NI because it’s a really innovative way of engaging people in difficult circumstances, helping grow their confidence and skills so they can play a strong part in the local community. It’s about inspiring and supporting change to enable people to play a positive role in society and we are delighted to have played our part to support them.”