Street Soccer founder to build innovative centre to tackle homelessness
Third Force News, by Paul Cardwell
Plans are well under way to build a multi-million pound complex combining accommodation for homeless people with a community café and football pitch in Glasgow.
The Change Centre is the brainchild of David Duke, the social entrepreneur and founder of homelessness charity Street Soccer Scotland.
His ambitious plan is to build accommodation for 32 homeless people centred around a community centre style building featuring two five-a-side football pitches available for public hire, a café with a training kitchen, a grandstand for spectators, meeting space, IT suite and changing facilities.
Homeless people referred to the centre would effectively run the facility using a social enterprise model working alongside members of staff.
The idea is that residents will not only gain a sense of purpose and structure through their work but would also build up valuable transferrable skills for future employment.
“Player residents will volunteer across a range of tasks,” Duke said, while unveiling plans for the centre at an exhibition space donated to the charity to use temporarily in Glasgow city centre.
“That will include working the front desk which will help build communication skills and confidence, working in the kitchen to cook and prepare meals for everyone, volunteering on the football programmes which supports health, wellbeing, social skills etc.
“The whole Change Centre experience, as the name says, should be an ongoing process of personal change which, I know myself, when you really commit to it, gives you a range of invaluable skills across the board from resilience to greater happiness to better relationships.”
Duke says he has been planning the centre in his head for a long time but it had really come together in the last year to 18 months.
He is unwilling to disclose the exact cost of the centre just yet – only willing to say it is in the multi-millions. He is also cautious to reveal precisely where it will be in Glasgow until land is secured but did say it is most likely to be in the south side of the city.
Funding for the build of the centre will need to be found, from government grants, trusts and corporate and philanthropic donors but over time it is planned that it would become a self-sufficient social enterprise that could be rolled out across the country.
Although cautious, Duke is clearly optimistic about the centre. He is probably better placed than anyone to know the impact it can have.
He spent almost three years homeless in Glasgow in his early 20s before going on to establish Street Soccer Scotland, a charity which works to provide training and personal development opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups through football across Scotland.
Residents would stay at the centre depending on how long they need assistance with the average to be likely to live there for around a year.
Once a new permanent home has been found for them, partnerships with other organisations that the centre is building up would see them offered work experience in the community they are moving to in order to help ease the transition.
“Having something like the Change Centre would have helped me in a lot of ways,” Duke continued.
“Just to feel part of something, part of the Change Centre, part of a football team, or a group volunteering in the kitchen can completely change your outlook.
Kids growing up near a Change Centre would know that residents there are no different from all their other neighbours
“When player residents arrive they will find a welcome pack on their bed with their name on their football shirt and on their own mug and things like that.
“Small kindnesses can be game changing when you are really low.
“Apart from that, it would have made a huge difference to me to have direct contact with job and training opportunities – the Change Centre is already building strong links to local and national businesses and we are very focussed building hard targets for these opportunities for our player residents.”
In creating his latest idea he has called on his own experience as well as examining a number of different approaches such as the San Patrignano community in Italy, the Housing First model in Glasgow of placing homeless individuals directly into independent tenancies and he visited a range of accommodation options for people who are homeless.
He has also sought the advice of other public and third sector organisations working with homeless people and crucially has asked around 25 homeless people to share their journeys and what they think would work best.
“We need to work together to change,” Duke adds.
“There are great homeless charities but if we are struggling to make an impact now – how will we make a difference when we get 40% cuts in our funding budgets?
“We don’t want to compete with services or charities that are doing incredible work in this area.
“We want to compliment them and accelerate existing work to end homelessness.
“Working together, we can create enough momentum to really change people’s perception of what being homeless means.”
Part of the reason why Duke wants to build homeless accommodation around a community centre, café and football pitch complex is to tackle the stigma of homelessness.
He describes being homeless as having a cold - something you can catch at any time, for any number of reasons, but that you can get over pretty quickly if you have the right support and care around you.
“You are not trained at school about what to do when you are homeless,” Duke adds.
“The Change Centre is designed to be open to the public, with warm and inviting spaces to gather in the café or grandstand and open views of the pitches.
“The pitches will be available to rent to local businesses, charities and clubs as well as being used for free football for local kids on a Friday and Saturday night coached by the resident volunteers
“The training kitchen will be used by local community groups and partner charities and offer opportunities for volunteering for the player residents.
“The stigma around finding yourself homeless can also be a major barrier to getting the right help.
“We want to build a different model for temporary accommodation in Scotland. We want to build a place that sets people on an upward spiral by connecting them to friends, skills, sport, volunteering and eventually their own homes and jobs in a community they know and that trusts them to be great neighbours.
“Kids growing up near a Change Centre would know that residents there are no different from all their other neighbours and that’s the really exciting part about ending stigma – you can do it in a generation.”
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