Just over a month ago, on a cold Friday night in January, I joined group of likeminded business leaders and community champions at The Gallagher Stadium in Maidstone for the Street Soccer Sleepout.
The sleepout was organized by the Stones Community Trust and Street Soccer Foundation in conjunction with Maidstone Utd FC to raise awareness about young homelessness in the UK. The aim of the event was to raise money to help vulnerable and homeless young people in the local community and show our support by sleeping out and experiencing – if only for one night - what it’s like to be homeless.
The evening started with a few words of encouragement from Mayor of Maidstone, Councillor Marion Ring; followed by an explanation from Street Soccer Academy Founder & CEO, Keith Mabbutt, of how the program helps vulnerable and homeless young adults build their confidence, self-esteem and resilience. We also got to meet one of the program’s graduates – a testament to the great work the program achieves.
By way of entertainment, and to pass the time until lights out, some of us took part in a very “interesting” game of 5-a-side football played with a supposedly glow-in-the-dark ball. Since it was played in near pitch darkness any scouts for Maidstone United would have been hard pushed to spot any future first team players, but those participating all enjoyed themselves. After the game we all headed indoors where we were given hot soup and access to proper toilet facilities – luxuries the true homeless don’t have.
At around 11.30 everyone went outside, and we took up our places in the stands to bed down for the night. Like everyone else there I had a high-quality sleeping bag and all the appropriate gear to ensure my night outdoors would be reasonably bearable. Nevertheless, a concrete floor doesn’t make the most comfortable bed so, after seven hours of fitful sleep, it was great to be able to drag my aching body back indoors for a hot cup of tea. Safe to say there were a lot of bleary-eyed people doing the same thing.
Around 7am we all started to load up our cars and make our way home to our nice warm homes – something we all take for granted but were, for once, much more appreciative of! Sleeping rough for just one night was a huge eye-opener and it’s scary to think how many people have to do it every night. Hopefully the money raised that night (>£5000) will help in a tiny way.
The Street Soccer Foundation is an award-winning charitable non-profit organisation operating nationwide throughout England, working in a collaborative manner with Football Club delivery partners and Supporters using football as a catalyst to improve the lives of vulnerable and homeless young people across the country. To find out more about what the foundation does, click here to go to their website.
MAIL MASTER is proud to be a Premier Supporter of The Street Soccer Foundation.