Rise, a local charity working with communities across Northumberland and Tyne & Wear to improve access to sport and physical activities, is supporting young homeless people in the region.
The charity is using a grant of £75,000 to deliver the Young People Forward project, an initiative funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
It uses sport to improve the physical and mental health, self-esteem and resilience of young people aged 16 – 25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Rise is currently supporting eight local organisations working with vulnerable youngsters. They include Crisis in Newcastle, a branch of the national charity for homeless people, South Tyneside Churches Key Project and the Albert Kennedy Trust.
Johnny Tulip, sports and exercise tutor for the Crisis learning team in Newcastle, explains: “Rise and the Young People Forward funding enabled us to provide additional opportunities for both our existing and our new young members facing homelessness.
“This support allowed us to provide a sports project involving activity sessions, exercise programmes and adventure away days in addition to the support we give through our wider learning, housing, employment and progression teams, which are crucial in helping us to improve the overall wellbeing and personal situations of our members, helping them get closer to leaving homelessness behind for good.
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“The young people we’re working with have said that taking part in the sports activities has given them a break from the concrete jungle of city life, helping to reduce their feelings of isolation and loneliness brought on by the pandemic.”
A young woman from Walker has turned her life around with support from Crisis Newcastle and the Young People Forward project. Billie Jo, 25, found herself homeless and sleeping on the streets of Newcastle for three weeks in 2019.
A friend put Billie Jo in touch with the Crisis Newcastle team, where she was assigned a dedicated case worker. Almost two years later and Billie Jo’s life has been transformed.
She is now living independently and following a stint of volunteering with Crisis, she successfully applied for a full-time role in the Crisis Housing First team, where she now draws on her lived-experience to provide peer support for young people struggling or facing homelessness too.
Billie Jo says: “The help I’ve received has been incredible. I’ve grown in confidence; I’m fitter and healthier with a future to look forward to. I wouldn’t wish homelessness and what I’ve been through on anyone. It’s great to be able to give something back by helping people who are struggling like I was.
“No one chooses to be homeless, people don’t understand what’s led to it and I want to work with organisations like Crisis and Rise to build more understanding and compassion.”
Ruth Nicholson, empowering people strategic lead at Rise, explains: “It’s extremely sad that homelessness continues to be so widespread in our society.
“We are pleased to be working with Crisis Newcastle and our regional partners to fund and create physical activity offers for the vulnerable young people they support.
“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities faced by many youngsters and this project uses the power of physical activity, collaboration and learning to help mitigate the factors that are causing young people to experience homelessness or find themselves at risk of it.
“Billie Jo’s story is inspirational and proves the need for initiatives like this. Despite the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Young People Forward Project is now making a positive impact on the lives of young people in our region and helping to boost their health and happiness.”
Funded by Virgin Money through the London Marathon Trust, the Young People Forward project aims to work with just under 600 young people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness while also developing a programme model that can be rolled out to inspire activity in many more.
The funding is distributed by Active Partnerships and Street Soccer Scotland to seven delivery partners in the North of England and Scotland, to provide physical activity sessions in 11 areas: Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Humber, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, Edinburgh, West Lothian and Glasgow.