Housing is just the first step for young people. Once they have their own room, they need opportunities to build up their self-confidence – which is often extremely low. They also need to take on new challenges, like applying for jobs, learning skills and working as a team.
The Centrepoint Engagement team is always working hard to give young people these opportunities. For many, sport and physical activity can be an easy and informal opportunity for staff to talk to them about personal development and get them on the right track to going back into education or further training.
2019 is a big year for our Engagement team. We’re planning to move into Yorkshire and Sunderland to provide our programmes for young people in these areas. These sessions will offer everything from dance to cookery classes, and training in cricket, boxing and football.
Our sessions are incredibly popular with young people. We partner with some of the country’s leading football clubs, including Arsenal and Chelsea, and this year we’re organising the England team for the first-ever Street Child Cricket World Cup.
For one cohort at our training centre with Arsenal we had 52 people engaged in the programme. 38 of the young people completed the course, which is unheard of. So we have a strong belief in our product, but of course there’s always room for improvement.
A four stage approach
The approach to supporting young people through activities is initially to get to know the young person individually. We then assess their needs and finally encourage them to build confidence through learning a new skill, all while having fun.
How we inspire young people is key, and for them to start caring about themselves is the most important part. Self-awareness is essential – you can’t lead if you don’t know yourself and we encourage them to think like leaders.
Not only do they benefit them physically and mentally, but also inspires and empowers them in a four stage approach:
- Social: playing with and against other young people teaches teamwork, which can be invaluable when applying for a job.
- Physical: taking part in sports activities improves both mental and physical health, which makes young people more likely to move on from homelessness faster.
- Technical: being coached on how they play helps young people improve at something they already love doing and gives them a sense of pride.
- Tactical: gives young people an understanding of the importance of rules and boundaries and how to operate respectfully within them, which benefits everyone.
We’re trying to help them to change the way they look at things. After joining our programmes, young people’s punctuality improves, they’re more willing to be open, they make connections with others and build relationships. They’re helping each other and inspiring each other.
Football as a tool for change
The Homeless World Cup is the Engagement team’s flagship sports project. The inspiring week-long street football tournament brings together more than 500 players representing 50+ countries around the world, all of which have faced homelessness and social marginalisation.
In November last year, Centrepoint Team England took 16 players to Mexico to complete in both the men’s and women’s competitions. The project is sponsored by the Peter Cruddas Foundation and the team’s kit is provided for free by UNIQLO.
Global competitions such as this are an incredible opportunity and allow homeless young people to challenge themselves and compete in a team of young people who’ve experienced similar pasts.
Meet Scott from Centrepoint Team England:
Making connections and believing in themselves
The highlight for me was on the final day of the tournament.
The two teams didn’t have a great day the day before. The women’s team were beaten in the last play-off games and the men’s team in their last two games. So we were feeling a bit low. It was also the end of the tournament and people were sad to be going home.
To pick up everyone’s spirits, we ran a workshop where each person wrote their name on a bit of paper. It was then passed around the room in a circle and everyone wrote a positive comment about each person. It was the most powerful thing – everyone was in tears.
But the biggest thing is people in the group were saying it was the first time that anyone had said something positive about them before. They grew like I’ve never seen anyone grow in my life. They were motivated, and had faith and belief in themselves as individuals. They made connections with people from all over the world. Ultimately, the gratitude in that room was palpable – you could taste it.
That was the highlight, the football came second. It was amazing to be part of that.