Posts Tagged ‘backgrounds’

Homelessness in Wales is a problem.

Statistics released in June show it is a growing problem. From January to March 2011, compared to the same quarter last year; the number of Welsh households accepted as homeless rose to 1,655 ( a 13% increase) and the number of households in temporary accommodation grew to 2,640 ( a rise of  6%).  In Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Wrexham, Gwynedd and Anglesey the proportion of people accepted as homeless was above the Welsh average.

These statistics do not include those classed as intentionally homeless (homeless by their own act or omission), so the actual number of homeless people will be far higher. Clearly there is a need to tackle the problem of homelessness head on; sooner, rather than later.

Count Me In Cymru interviewed Keri Harris, Chairman of social inclusion charity Street Football Wales, to learn about how they help homeless people get back on their feet.

How does Street Football Wales help those who are socially excluded?

“In a nutshell Street Football Wales is all about creating opportunity for people of all different backgrounds and playing football in a safe and fun environment; changing lives for the better. For example; for those who are homeless, they can really interact with the other players and feel included. And for those with substance misuse issues, it gives them one day they know they have to stay clean. As a result that sends the message; if they can stay clean for one day, why not two days, why not a week? ”

Chairman Keri Haris and coach Paul Scarfi with Welsh dragons team, courtesy of Street Football Wales

How did Street Football Wales start?

“In 2003 I was working for Big Issue Cymru. Our director came back from a conference and asked me to start up a football team. I wasn’t really keen on football, I’ve always been more interested in rugby to be honest!

The first homeless world cup was going to be held in Austria in 2003. We took a team over , not really knowing what to expect and it was a life changing experience, not just for the players but for myself too. Seeing the positive impact it could have on people was incredible.

 We came back wanting to continue it but there was nothing we could really join. The team wanted to stay together but with the various organisations we looked into joining people being judgemental towards us and clearly it just wasn’t going to work. We needed a project on its own for people who are socially excluded. That’s how it was set up in 2004 as an eight team project.”

In action, image courtesy of Street Football Wales

Is it common to see people turn their lives around while playing for Street Football Wales?

“There’s been many many success stories. To name a few; Chris Stockwell is now living independently, he’s working and he even wants to help volunteer to coach with Street Football Wales. Terry Fitzpatrick is someone who’s seen he can really achieve whatever he wants. He’s now in university in Carmarthen, and has passed the first year of his social work course with flying colours. A lot of the boys from the group we took out to the Milan Homeless World Cup in 2009 have now become fathers and are in stable relationships and it’s fantastic to see them get back on their feet.”

Street Football Wales is just one of the many charities in Wales which seeks to help homeless people, but with homelessness on the rise the government must play its part. On October 24th the Welsh Government announced a review into homelessness legislation following research completed in May (downloadable here). Criticisms emerging from the research included:

  • Resources are often wasted
  • Homelessness legislation should address more than just housing
  • Earlier intervention is needed
  • Young and vulnerable people should be exempt from the intentionality test
  • More guidance is needed

The review will be launched led by Dr Peter Mackie, lecturer in Housing at Cardiff University.

Keep your coins I want change Banksy image, courtesy of Michael Pickard at