The organiser of Britain’s first football tournament for those who have suffered homelessness and addiction believes sport is helping save lives among one of Teesside’s most vulnerable groups.
Alan Harrison, Middlesbrough Homeless and Recovery League’s sports development coordinator, says the benefits of events such as the forthcoming Homeless Recovery Shield can’t be over-estimated.
And he praised Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation and Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation, who are backing the tournament, for enabling it to happen.
“What we’re able to do is all down to their support,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, some people who are engaged with us now would have lost their lives.
“There are people who have tried to commit suicide and through the support we’re able to give them are now recovering.
“This is a day of celebrating the recovery of each and every one of those taking part. It gets them involved in the community again and helps lift the stigma they are carrying on their shoulders, giving them confidence and the chance to play together in a team.”
Alan got involved with North East Athletic when he moved to Middlesbrough from Merseyside and discovered there were no programmes here using sport to help people with problems such as homelessness and substance abuse. It was then that he started to help the charity spread its wings south from Tyneside to Teesside.
Alan, who is himself a recovering alcoholic, said: “From then on it’s grown bigger and bigger and we now have around 60 people on our books who are involved with the agencies or have left them and are recovering.
“We’re very active in Middlesbrough and are looking to set up similar work in Stockton too.
“It’s not just about football – we’re including as many sports as possible. The Philanthropic Foundation is funding rowing courses with Olympic gold medallist Kat Copeland and Tees Valley Rowing Club.”
Other activities include table tennis, circuit training at Lifelines Gymnasium, in Middlesbrough’s Forbes Buildings, and health and wellbeing courses with MFC Foundation.
“We’re trying to offer sport six days a week,” added Alan. “We want to give people something to do instead of sitting at home and being tempted to go back into substance abuse or re-offending.”
Last year, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop presented the Homeless Recovery Shield to Middlesbrough Homeless Recovery, who beat local hostel Stages Academy in the final.
This time, Philanthropic Foundation chairman Andy Preston will make the presentation.
Andy said: “The Foundation is involved in the widest range of community projects across Teesside but we know that our support of Middlesbrough Homeless and Recovery League can not only change lives but save them too. We’re proud to be backing their incredible work.”
The event takes place at the Herlingshaw Sports Centre on Thursday September 25.
Agencies including the Probation Service, hostels and other homelessness and substance abuse organisations throughout the country have been invited to submit teams
For further information or to book your team’s place in the tournament, call Alan on 07935942381.