Big Issue to host big soccer tournament for Homelessness Week

Image: File photo.
Image: File photo.

THE BIG ISSUE WA will mark Homelessness Week with a big soccer tournament at Wellington Square.

Andrew Joske, Western Australian manager for the Big Issue, told Guardian Express that the Community Street Soccer Program was a regular Big Issue event and one of their largest programs.

“We have about 40 to 50 people participating each week in a two-hour session. There are participants from all walks of life and backgrounds, some are homeless, some have experienced homelessness, some are newly arrived, some are refugees, some are people living with disabilities,” he said. “It is an opportunity to get together, to mix, to play soccer and be in a team environment.”

To recognise Homelessness Week the Big Issue is holding an inter-agency Cup. St Bartholomew’s, Red Cross, Uniting Care and other groups are involved, with the usual program participants being joined by others in a round robin tournament.

“Our friends at Mercedes College – the staff and students – are coming down and cooking a barbecue for the players on Tuesday,” said Mr Joske. “Every fortnight they cook something on the College campus and bring it down so the participants in our soccer program have a hot meal, and whatever is left is distributed at Wellington Square.”

The Homelessness Week Cup will take place tomorrow between 3.30pm and 5.30pm at Wellington Square.

The Community Street Soccer Program uses soccer to help homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people positively change their lives and reconnect with the community.

The weekly training sessions give participants an opportunity to get active and make new friends in a fun and non-threatening environment.

The Big Issue provides equipment and dedicated coaches and support staff at 18 sites across Australia, including two correctional facilities in Victoria.

During the two-hour sessions, players take part in skill work and a friendly match. Support staff also work closely with participants, linking them with services that address their individual issues and needs.

Street Soccer is for men and women aged 16 and above. The program engages people who in many cases have given up on counselling and traditional support systems and services.

They come from many walks of life, but all have been marginalised in some way, including through long-term unemployment, mental illness, homelessness, refugee status, drug and alcohol dependency or physical disability.

Street Soccer has engaged more than 7000 participants since it was launched nationally in 2007. Over this period, many players have reported positive changes in their lives as a result of their participation. A 2015 survey of Street Soccer players found the program was achieving many health outcomes for participants, such as:

� 99 per cent reported improved physical fitness

� 96 per cent were motivated to improve or maintain their physical and mental health

� 95 per cent said they had a more positive outlook on life

� 90 per cent learned about health issues

� 86 per cent said they ate healthier food.

The program has also proven effective at decreasing rates of smoking and substance abuse with 58 per cent of players reporting reduced alcohol use and 47 per cent stopping or cutting back on smoking.

The Big Issue is Australia’s longest-standing social enterprise. It is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that develops solutions to help homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people positively change their lives. The Big Issue provides opportunities for people to earn their own income, while helping them build confidence and their capacity to help themselves. The Big Issue operates a number of programs alongside its well-known Street Magazine Enterprise: the Women’s Subscription Enterprise, Community Street Soccer Program, The Big Issue Classroom, The Big Idea and Homes for Homes.