Homeless footballers break barriers at Hitchin community coach’s Baldock matchday
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Homeless footballers and young people affected by mental health issues took to the field as part of a project helping them integrate with society through sport.
Hitchin Town FC community coach Marc Campbell ran the day at Baldock Arena as part of Da 1 in Ten Sports Mentoring Projekt involving Stevenage Haven and the North Herts Sanctuary.
The event featured homeless footballers, Luton college students and Hitchin Town’s academy team and Ability Counts squad, for adults with special needs.
Marc told the Comet: “Socially, they all get a lot out of this.
“For me, the best part of this is not just raising awareness of mental health issues and the impact of homelessness, but also the cohesion between the groups.
“When you talk about homelessness or mental health, there’s this phobia – but when it came to the football game, we had some really good players. Some of the guys from the homeless shelters in particular are extremely good.”
The first match, an eight-a-side affair between the Haven and Ability Counts, finished 3-0 to the Haven. The boys from Luton then beat both teams – winning 3-1 against Ability Counts and 2-1 against the Haven.
The football event followed a similar basketball-themed day at Hitchin’s Priory School.
Marc’s work with the homeless, which includes employability and entrepreneurial workshops, is now under threat after the demise of community interest company Child UK seriously affected his funding.
But he’s not slowing down, and has reached out to organisations as far off as Cambridge and Watford to try to organise a ‘Homeless World Cup’ he intends to hold at Baldock Arena during November.
Marc said: “We’re looking at doing other sports too – we do boxing already, and someone’s offering to help us with Olympic weightlifting, but without the money it’s going to be hard.
“Hitchin Town are very keen as a club to do what they can to help keep this programme going.
“We’re looking to rebrand the project with a new name soon, so watch this space.”
Hitchin Town FC is one of the teams hoping for bumper crowds on Non-League Day this Saturday, and will be donating a collection and part of the gate receipts to Stevenage Haven.