We have recently added a new, relevant and accurate tag line that succinctly describes the work of Street Soccer Academy, “Isolation to Integration”. We are well known in the North West of England for our football and fitness based rehabilitation programmes, which have obvious physical and health benefits, but what many people are unaware of is the ultimate impact we have beyond the visible benefits of engaging in our programmes. These ‘outcomes’ can be difficult to measure because of their qualitative nature. Very little of what we do has a clear start and end date due to the individuals we seek to reach being literally ‘hard-to-reach’. They are not a single step away from no longer needing us, they have multiple and complex needs with 63% presenting more than one support need during their registration process. Our relationship with each participant tends to be a long-term one during which time we identify their support needs and outwork a development plan via ongoing reviews and appraisals.
All of our referrals fall into at least one of the following categories: homeless, offender, long-term unemployed, mental health problem, disabled, addict. Each of the categories stated can create a form of isolation from mainstream society. A disconnection that leads to not feeling fully accepted, secure and significant in life generally. Knowing that you are accepted, secure and significant are foundational values of Street Soccer Academy that we believe everyone should personally own. It is the aim of Street Soccer Academy to assist our participants in becoming integrated or reintegrated into society in areas where they have become isolated.
We aim to:
- Find the job seeker work in the employment market;
- Find the homeless person a home, not just a roof over their head;
- Rehabilitate the offender through pro-social strategies;
- Help the addict to break free from addiction and reliance on rehab centres;
- Reunite families where relationships have become frayed and broken;
- Empower those with mental ill health or disabilities to feel socially included.
Institutionalisation can be self-inflicted, as people who find themselves in prison know, but we as an organisation are very careful not to create other forms of unnecessary and unhelpful institutions or bubbles. Once initial issues have been worked through we are keen to begin integrating our participants back into communities as quickly as possible in areas of housing, work, and general society.
Homeless people should be provided with housing solutions in amongst existing communities rather than being grouped together for a long-term period where all opportunities presented to them maintain a tag of homelessness. Homeless people don’t need a homeless football league, they need access to regular football opportunities at existing community based football clubs where they rub shoulders with people of a mixture of backgrounds. The same can be said concerning ex-offenders, asylum seekers, and recovering addicts. We are keen to keep our activities inclusive of people with mental health issues and disabilities as far as is realistically possible before specialist equipment and personnel is needed.
We believe that ex-offenders can create a new more recent positive past that leads to employment opportunities in a variety of industries as opposed to having jobs created for them because employers are prejudice against them.
We have first hand experience that people who were once held captive by drug and alcohol addiction can break free and revel in healthy relationships, thrive in employment and be involved in positive recreation activity.
We have an ever growing number of partner organisations in a wide variety of settings committed to seeing isolated individuals become embedded back into communities. Organisations and groups of people that recognize we all have a part to play in seeing fully cohesive communities that help support individuals when in need rather than allowing them to become ostracised by their circumstances and actions.
As Kofi Annan stated:
“Business, labor, and civil society organisations have skills and resources that are vital in helping to build a more robust global community.”
We are unapologetically focused on integration and inclusivity. This may sound idealistic and maybe unrealistic but this is our vision that we are beginning to see become a reality as we seek full on integration in communities that work together, live together and have community together.