Homeless community in Causeway benefit from Street Soccer NI link-up

Football players from the homeless community in Causeway are feeling much more at home during Homeless Awareness Week thanks to a thriving sports project funded by the Housing Executive.
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Housing Executive Causeway Community Cohesion grant funded a four-month football programme through Street Soccer NI to help the project reach its ultimate goal of bringing positive change in vulnerable people’s lives through soccer.

The project works with players from ethnic minorities, the homeless sector, the asylum seeker community and those across the wider community with housing, employment, education, addiction and mental health issues.

The theme of Homeless Awareness Week (December 4-10) this year is turning the tide of homelessness and this crucial health and wellbeing service is certainly playing its part in washing away the stigma surrounding homelessness in the Causeway area.

Players from the homeless sector, asylum community, and players from across all local communities took part in Street Soccer NI’s football match for Homeless Awareness Week (4-10 December). Credit NIHEPlayers from the homeless sector, asylum community, and players from across all local communities took part in Street Soccer NI’s football match for Homeless Awareness Week (4-10 December). Credit NIHE
Players from the homeless sector, asylum community, and players from across all local communities took part in Street Soccer NI’s football match for Homeless Awareness Week (4-10 December). Credit NIHE

Justin McMinn CEO and Co-Founder of Street Soccer NI charity said: “Thanks to Housing Executive funding the group has been able to come together to engage in weekly training. Where needed, football boots were supplied and the group will continue to engage in a variety of good relations workshops.

“We have also able to organise friendly away 11-aside matches for our players like this one between Belfast and Coleraine at University of Ulster. Our project also gives players, who may be struggling with their mental health, a sense of routine, structure and something positive to look forward on a weekly basis through our weekly football sessions and gym classes.

“The project has a great impact on their physical well-being and builds crucial social and communication skills. For the asylum seekers and refugees it’s great for them to develop their English but also to build positive relationships with local people in the community.

“Playing away games with other Soccer NI teams is a huge highlight for them. The teams really enjoy the experience of travelling as a team to represent their local area and visit other Street Soccer projects. We have worked in partnership with The Housing Executive since 2014 when they first sponsored our Homeless World Cup team heading to Chile that year.

Pictured with the Coleraine team players taking part in Street Soccer NI’s football match between Coleraine and Belfast at University of Ulster’s 4G pitch and supported by the Housing Executive Cohesion grant are, (from left to right), Housing Executive’s Good Relations Officer Causeway, Gareth Doran, Street Soccer NI Coordinator Stephen Fleming, Housing Executive Temporary Accommodation Manager, Patrick Hargan and Housing Executive Causeway Area Manager, Mark Alexander. Credit NIHEPictured with the Coleraine team players taking part in Street Soccer NI’s football match between Coleraine and Belfast at University of Ulster’s 4G pitch and supported by the Housing Executive Cohesion grant are, (from left to right), Housing Executive’s Good Relations Officer Causeway, Gareth Doran, Street Soccer NI Coordinator Stephen Fleming, Housing Executive Temporary Accommodation Manager, Patrick Hargan and Housing Executive Causeway Area Manager, Mark Alexander. Credit NIHE
Pictured with the Coleraine team players taking part in Street Soccer NI’s football match between Coleraine and Belfast at University of Ulster’s 4G pitch and supported by the Housing Executive Cohesion grant are, (from left to right), Housing Executive’s Good Relations Officer Causeway, Gareth Doran, Street Soccer NI Coordinator Stephen Fleming, Housing Executive Temporary Accommodation Manager, Patrick Hargan and Housing Executive Causeway Area Manager, Mark Alexander. Credit NIHE

"Since then they have supported us every year through various funds and grants. They are now our biggest funder.”

Stephen Fleming, Coordinator Street Soccer NI said: “We play football but it is a lot more than that. We are getting these guys together and out of the house and the ruts they find themselves in. It gives them a voice and ensures they are heard by others. The games give us a chance to catch up with them and see if there’s anything they need support with.”

Aaron John Connor, Coleraine Street Soccer NI player, said: “Playing these matches you get to meet new people, you interact. It clears the head to be honest.”

Gareth Doran, Housing Executive Good Relations Officer for the Causeway area said: “We are so privileged to be able to help Soccer NI offer people the opportunity to meet in a safe, friendly space to forge friendships in what for some may be a new environment."