Street football outreach project back at Carrow Road
- Credit: Steve Adams
Opening the door to get people off the streets and onto the pitch, Street Life Soccer will launch again next week on the outskirts of Carrow Road.
Offering the chance to pull on a Canaries jersey, or even represent the country, the Community Sports Foundation project has now been running sessions for seven years.
Since then it has reached more than 700 people around Norwich, offering a helping hand to homeless, vulnerably housed, those seeking asylum, refugees, ethnic minority groups and offenders or ex-offenders.
Some sessions are held at HMP Norwich, and charities will assist in signposting refugees or asylum seekers to the team.
'What we try to offer these guys is help with their English skills, and try to integrate them into our family and the local community,' said education development co-ordinator Ian Hill.
'A lot of these guys know nobody, and some have travelled alone for literally hundreds of miles. Some of their stories are quite hard to believe, and they just want to better themselves.'
As part of the education programme, qualifications in football coaching are available from AQA UAS, and FA Level One and Two qualifications can be reached.
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'We have made a real effort not to put barriers in front of them from the first off, and developing their social skills is a key area of the programme for us as well,' Mr Hill added.
'We try to improve their confidence both on the pitch and in the classroom. Coming down here they suddenly find other people who have had the same experiences.
'We do have issues with the levels of reading and writing of some of the guys, but we want to support them and get them to help each other. Some are exceptionally bright. A lot of these guys we do get into work, and we are really proud of that. 'Football is the carrot for these lads, and that's what gets the down here. It is not about their skill, it is about them taking part.'
20-year-old Billy Howes was living at a hostel in Great Yarmouth a year and a half ago when he was told about the course.
'It appealed to quite a few of us,' he said. 'It was interesting to me that it had education in as well. When I was at school I didn't really enjoy it, but when I came here I realised it was more engaging than I thought at first. 'I would tell anyone else in a similar position to get down here; it is life-changing.'
The 30 week free programme runs until the end of July, and accepts those aged 16 to 65, running groups in Norwich, Dereham and Great Yarmouth.
To apply contact Ian Hill on 01603 761122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.