Football clubs can do so much to tackle homelessness – and that has been exemplified by Oldham Athletic’s vow to become the first professional club to be homeless friendly.
The League Two football club have teamed up with charity Homeless-Friendly to create an information point for homeless people at their Boundary Park ground, showing people where they can access medical care and support services.
They will also write articles in their match programme to raise awareness of issues affecting homeless people, such as hypothermia in winter months, as well as dedicating a match to raise funds for the charity.
A massive thank you to everyone for their positive comments about our partnerships with @OfficialOAFC and #BigSleepOut It is great to know so many of you want to solve the humanitarian crisis that is #Homelessness #endhomelessness pic.twitter.com/ZhnsLYF0WF
— Homelessfriendly (@Homelessfriendy) September 18, 2019
Players and staff will also be asked to help out with distributing warm clothing to rough sleepers in the winter months.
The Latics’ managing director Natalie Atkinson said: “Linking in with the great work that Homeless-Friendly do is so important for us as a club.
“It’s a big issue for Greater Manchester and as part of our ‘One Club, One Town’ vision we want to help those less fortunate and show that Oldham Athletic really cares.”
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
The homeless charity was started after founder Dr Zahid Chauhan met a rough sleeper forced to remove his own teeth with pliers due to the pain he was suffering and his lack of access to medical services.
Now they work with carers, hospitals and GP services as well as businesses, charities and local authorities to outline where homeless people can get assistance for medical issues as well as help with addiction and to receive help with finding employment.
“I cannot over-emphasise how important it is to have a professional football club of such tradition involved in the battle against homelessness,” said Dr Chauhan. “Oldham will promote a better understanding of homelessness, reducing its stigma. Their fans can learn how to support a rough sleeper and crucially, the club will take part in activities to aid rough sleepers – spreading hope that their life expectancy extends beyond 47-years-of-age.”
— Darren Booth (@darr_booth) September 17, 2019
Homelessness has been on the agenda for bigger football clubs in the area with former Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany making it his issue to tackle with funds raised by his testimonial match last week.
And in January, Premier League side Crystal Palace also used their Selhurst Park stadium as a shelter to protect rough sleepers from the winter cold.
Oldham Athletic and Homeless-Friendly will also be participating in the Manchester event of the World’s Big Sleep Out, which takes place in Openshaw on December 7.
The Big Issue is also supporting the event with Sleep Out at the Kia Oval Cricket Ground on the same night. Register for that event here.