Leeds Beckett Lecturer attends Homeless World Cup
Dr Kathryn Curran, Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity, Exercise and Health, led the research and attended the tournament in Amsterdam with Dr Daniel Parnell of Manchester Metropolitan University (previously of Leeds Beckett). Their research, which centres on the men’s England football team, aims to establish the impact of the Homeless FA’s Team England Development programme and the HWC in meeting homeless men’s psychosocial needs and, in doing so, satisfy contemporary concerns to establish sport and physical activity interventions in Public Health.
Dr Curran said: “Homeless men are amongst the most excluded groups in society and consistently identify stigma, discrimination and exclusion as major barriers to health and quality of life. The HWC was established in 2001 as a tool to energise homeless people to change their lives.”
The HWC is an annual international football tournament attended by teams of people (male and female) from across the globe who have or are experiencing homelessness (or people undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation). Founded by Mel Young and Harold Schmeid, football was chosen because of its psychosocial attributes and the sense of empowerment that comes from participating. It also improves general health and wellbeing.
Dr Curran said: “Research has been conducted and published on the impact of the HWC by academics in Australia, who reported the development of social capital amongst Australian homeless men as a result of participation. The paper highlighted the need for longitudinal research to assess the extent the HWC has impacted the lives of the players post tournament. This is the intention of our research”
The research, supported by the Homeless FA, who select and manage Team England, and funded by the Carnegie Centre, is part of the programme of work on football-related research and hard-to-engage groups with the Centre for Active Lifestyles at Leeds Beckett.
Dr Parnell added: "Homelessness is a major national and local issue, helped little as a result of the unstable economic climate and subsequent uncertain financial status for those across our communities. Whilst austerity driven policy measures may not directly impact homelessness, it does impact those experiencing homelessness. It impacts those charities and public sector services at the forefront of providing care and support for those experiencing homelessness.
Given this desperate and worsening context, being able to engage in research and public engagement with the Homeless FA at the HWC will hopefully help provide further independent evidence for the impact of this work and help share the stories of those experiencing homelessness and how football has played its part in positively changing their lives."
Whilst no conclusive results will be available until 2016 from the data captured by Dr Curran and Dr Parnell, the HWC report a huge percentage of returning players improve their lives through education, employment in social enterprises and other businesses, substance abuse rehabilitation, and supported housing - 94% of players consistently say that the HWC has had a positive impact on their lives.
Dr Curran said: “One thing we can confirm is that the structure and programme of support and education provided by the English Homeless FA makes this event, in the participant’s words, "more than football" and by their own admissions has elucidated once in a lifetime experiences that are genuinely life changing.
“The atmosphere amongst players and teams was marvellous. There was an obvious presence of respect and sportsmanship. Many of the players reported their experience as life changing. The event was much more than football. The social within and across teams created a hotbed of cultural exchanges, handshakes, embraces, friendships and smiles.”
For more information about the Homeless FA please visit www.homelessfa.org.
Further information on the Homeless World Cup and how you can become a supporter can be found at https://www.homelessworldcup.org.
Image credits to: Alex Walker (image 1)