THE North-East’s first football club for the homeless officially kicked off when young people representing eight Teesside hostels took part in a tournament at Middlesbrough FC’s Herlingshaw community centre.
Middlesbrough Homeless Football Club is designed to improve the health, confidence and life chances of homeless people across Teesside.
Under a slogan of ‘Tackling Homelessness for all of Teesside’, MHFC has been formed with the support and financial backing of Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
Funds to support its first year in operation were raised by Teesside business leaders who took part in a sponsored CEO Sleepout outside Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium earlier this year.
Every month Teesside hostels and other agencies will field five-a-side teams to compete in a local homeless league with prizes available to the winners and runners-up.
Boro legend Bernie Slaven is taking an active role as football advisor for the new set-up and attended the first get-together to help select players to represent Middlesbrough Homeless Football Club in future 11-a-side matches against mainstream football sides.
Hostels taking part in the first tournament day were Stages, Letitia House, Single Key, New Walk Accommodation, Community Campus, Webb House, Bridge House and Tees Valley Housing Services.
MHFC chairman Andy Preston said: “It’s a stark fact that Teesside is the North-East homelessness black spot, so we’re determined to do all we can take some positive action.
“Middlesbrough Homeless Football Club is more of a movement than a football club. While it won’t be a cure for homelessness, we believe it can help to break down the barriers between the homeless and non-homeless. Hopefully, we will help increasing numbers of Teesside’s homeless population get back into mainstream society.”
Ex-Boro striker Slaven said: “I think the idea of this club is terrific. Tackling homelessness has always been something I’ve wanted to get involved in so I was privileged to be asked to be part of it. I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that people are homeless in Britain in 2013.”
Forming the club was the brainchild of care worker Peter Kenny, who was previously involved with the well-established Liverpool Homeless Football Club, whose patrons include ex-Liverpool FC star Jamie Carragher and comedian John Bishop.
MHFC’s supporters include ‘Voice of the Boro’ Alastair Brownlee of BBC Tees, who has been appointed as the club’s honorary president.
Also involved is Middlesbrough Football Club’s recently-formed charity, the MFC Foundation, and Teesside firm Ecco Finishing Supplies, who are club sponsors.
Set up as a not-for-profit organisation and established as a Community Interest Company, MHFC’s board includes Nik Tunley, a partner at Teesside solicitors Endeavour Partnership, Keith Miller, managing director of club sponsors Ecco, homelessness advisor Sharon Caddell, Andy Clay of the MFC Foundation and PR expert Dave Allan, formerly Middlesbrough FC’s media manager.
For more details about Middlesbrough Homeless Football Club visit www.middlesbroughhomelessfc.co.uk