Mel Young - bringing the Homeless World Cup to Glasgow

05 July 2016

Mel Young - bringing the Homeless World Cup to Glasgow

Mel Young speaks about the Homeless World Cup at GCU Research Day

It’s always great to come to Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) because of the values that this University holds central to what it’s about, as they correspond to the values we have. And when you have shared values then you can create things together, which is what we’re doing.

According to the UN there are 100,000,000 people homeless. The gap between the rich and poor is growing; homelessness is manifesting itself in every country in the world. The richest country in the world is still the USA; there are three million people on the streets. There’s a crisis of humanity. People measure these statistics and talk about their impact. Research from New York found the cost to society of one homeless person in the street is $30,000 each year. You multiply that by 100 million and you see can how much that is costing society. When those statistics come out, governments pay attention. We have solutions and quite apart from the benefit to the individual, we need to show the benefit to society as a whole. We shouldn’t have homelessness.

We work in 74 countries in the world, one partner per country. That partner works with homeless people in the street. They quite simply go up to them and say ‘would you like to play football?’ We use football as an intervention as anyone can play; it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are; how many people are in a team; you can play anywhere – in the street, in the park, inside a house. It’s inclusive and very inexpensive. All you need is a ball and in some countries, they don’t have balls; they create them from plastic bags and string.

Once we get them involved in football then we begin a journey with them. Homeless people in that first stage are characterised by low self-esteem or confidence, nil self-respect. So we build them into a team and that team becomes part of their family and then we address the issues that are facing them, which might be housing, employment, drugs, family issues or the whole lot combined. We work on a pathway with them, but always with football at the centre.

We have worked with more than a million people since we started. The whole purpose of what we do is to create an impact and to create change. We have been able to do that by playing football. Eighty percent have gone on to get jobs, come off drugs completely. Some have become coaches and some have become leaders of the organisation itself. So complete change, and it isn’t always necessarily about becoming a professional footballer. It’s about people moving from an excluded world back into society. Sport conspires to make things happen. It’s about change.

We are coming to Glasgow - we are very excited about it. More and more people are looking at us now and we are simply using football to create change. 

Find out more about how GCU is involved in the Homeless World Cup


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