Homelessness projects making a difference this Christmas
17th December 2021
With Christmas approaching, its important to spare a thought to those who don’t have somewhere safe to call a home this festive period. This December, we’re highlighting some incredible National Lottery funded homelessness projects making an important difference.
Since 2010, more than half a billion pounds (over £576 million) has been awarded to more than 3,000 projects that involve or support homeless people or help tackle homelessness throughout the UK.
We spoke to four projects from across the UK, to learn more about the remarkable impact that they’re having.
Streetwise Opera is an arts organisation working with the homeless sector to inspire change and empower people to realise their own creative potential – they engage world-class artists to collaborate with diverse individuals affected by homelessness to create powerful works of art, and to positively impact how society views homelessness.
Dee Allison, 73, had hit rock bottom, but used the power of singing to change her fortunes.
“I'd been a confident person all my life, but I lost all that confidence. I used to hear people singing when I was having help at The Passage, and it was beautiful – it took me two years of listening in the corridor before Streetwise Opera convinced me to come along.
“I've been singing with them for a long time now, and we've done so many things, including recently singing at the Royal Albert Hall. It was what kept me sane, quite honestly. Music is universal, but it gave me confidence, I even sang a solo which to me was impossible. I’ve found the voice I lost”.
Street Soccer NI
Street Soccer NI is a charity set up for the disadvantaged groups of society such as the homeless, people with addictions, mental health issues, ex-prisoners, refugees, asylum seekers and long term unemployed. It aims to bring positive change to people’s lives using football.
After being homeless at 19 and rebuilding her life from scratch after being released from prison, Ruth from Belfast never thought she would experience homelessness again - but a secure apartment and job crumbled before her eyes.
Ruth said: “It was like two different types of homelessness – the one later, I’d left my old life behind when I left prison and I managed to rebuild."
“I had my own apartment, everything was going great, I was working and it was paying off. Then my landlord needed to sell because of his own financial troubles, which was totally understandable, but it meant that I was homeless."
“Living in a hostel can be scary, especially as a woman. It’s not necessarily 100 percent safe, and there were times I was lying in bed, the door handle is going down and I’d think ‘thank god I locked that door and put stuff up against it to keep it closed’."
Struggling with her confidence and low in mood, Ruth used her love for football to rebuild her life for a second time, thanks to the assistance of Street Soccer NI.
“I got involved with Street Soccer because I’ve always been involved in football. They gave me so much support – a key worker would fight my corner, put everything I owned in storage so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch, they even took me to the housing office and arranged it all for me."
“To see other people running up and down the pitch was amazing, because I love the game and that’s what’s so great about Street Soccer – I had my experience there, but that’s their new experience.”
The Marie Trust
The Marie Trust in Scotland responds to the complex and often challenging needs of people affected by homelessness, poverty, and social exclusion.
It offers a wide range of services, including counselling, cookery classes and expressive arts and art drop-in classes to empower the people it works with and equip them with the tools and skills to improve their current living conditions.
Homeless, alone and suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder – a refugee Adam (name changed) managed to turn his life around using the power of art.
“When I came to Glasgow as a refugee, I knew that I could not overcome both the negative effects of my experience in my country and the difficulties I would face here alone,” said Adam.
“I had no plans or goals but just to survive and protect myself – I felt like I was in a dark tunnel and did not want to move. My psychologist wanted me to keep my mind busy with things, but I didn't know what to do - I felt lost. Things started to change when I got into art because I really enjoyed being at the Marie Trust."
“People have problems like me, and so it felt comfortable – it takes me time going to a new place as I'm not comfortable being around new people. The Marie Trust guided me to the light at the end of the tunnel I had lost. It has been the place that helped me the most in solving many problems I faced to maintain my daily life."
“As well as helping with my life, they helped with my course and studying, and I find comfort in the fact that they are there any time I need them."
“I’m hopeful for my future – hope is always there. I hope I can one day go back to my home when it is safe.”
Nordoff Robbins - The Wallich
In 2020, as part of their Covid-19 response strategy, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, the UK’s largest music therapy charity, funded an eight-week pilot project at a hostel for people experiencing homelessness in Swansea, in partnership with The Wallich, Wales’ leading homelessness and rough sleeping charity.
Following the success, and with the support of National Lottery funding, a Nordoff Robbins music therapist delivered ongoing weekly group and individual music therapy sessions during the pandemic to meet the increased need for support for people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless and on probation, ‘Mr G’ started individual music therapy sessions when he was a resident at Ty Tom Jones, The Wallich’s hostel in Swansea for people experiencing homelessness – and the experience helped him rebuild.
"At the start of the year I was on probation and I was advised to declare myself homeless so that the system could help me,” said Mr G.
“I was assigned temporary accommodation on the seafront in Swansea, where I was for two or three weeks. You have somewhere to sleep but you can't live there - you don't have a kitchen, and you can't eat in your room."
“You're seeing a way of life where people have been to prison and are involved in drugs and alcohol and all sorts - it's shocking - but they aren't getting the help they need either."
“I have faced abuse in my life and so suffer with PTSD. In terms of knocking your confidence, it was hard enough to be down on the seafront with no one I knew, and no one to properly help. I can now stand on my own feet in Ty Tom Jones, but I had to hit rock bottom before I could build myself up.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps charities and organisations which support homeless people in our communities. To find out more about National Lottery funding go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding.