STRICTLY Come Dancing star Neil Jones, who struggled with homelessness as a teenager, is highlighting the incredible support National Lottery-funded homeless projects have provided to people across Scotland in the last 10 years.

The 31-year-old professional dancer is now a regular fixture on screens across the UK, but a few years ago he was in a very different position and, for a brief time, he even found himself sleeping rough on the streets.

With Christmas fast approaching, Neil is helping to highlight the extensive funding and support The National Lottery has provided to homelessness projects over the last decade.

And has joined forces with Scottish homeless charities The Marie Trust and Invisible Cities to shine a light on issues surrounding homelessness.

Hillingdon Times: Strictly star Neil Jones faced homelessness himself as a teenagerStrictly star Neil Jones faced homelessness himself as a teenager

Strictly Come Dancing star Neil Jones said: “With winter upon us and Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time of year to spare a thought for those who don’t have a home to go to or have somewhere safe, comfortable and warm to sleep over the festive period.

“It’s tough to think about the difficult things they’re going through at this time of year because it’s such a time of joy for most of us, but it’s important to recognise that there are so many people out there who really do need our help.

“Thankfully, there are countless incredible charities and organisations doing some really incredible work supporting homeless people across the UK with National Lottery funding.

“Having experienced homelessness, myself, I know just how crucial that kind of support is. I’m incredibly thankful to have made it through that dark period in my life, but this Christmas I hope people will take a moment to think about those who are still experiencing such challenges.”

The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, alone has awarded more than 600 grants worth around £80 million to projects that involve homeless people since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Marie Trust 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.

While Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city.

Last year, Invisible Cities was awarded a £8,600 grant from the National Lottery for its Invisible Women of Scotland project. It used the funding to provide skills building workshops and training to women with lived experience of homelessness some of whom went on to provide 'Invisible Cities' tours to the public.

Frances McKinlay, Chief Officer of The Marie Trust who received £499,322 from the National Lottery, said: “The biggest impact the funding from the National Lottery has had is that we've been able to deliver new services. We have such a big need for social prescribing and supporting people in communities and people experiencing homelessness. Having the money to employ a pharmacist has been life changing for people and it wouldn't have been possible without the funding. We have services with different expertise in one partnership and working together.”

Founder and CEO of Invisible Cities Zakia Moulaoui Guery, 34, said: “One of the things that I noticed was that it's a lot harder to reach women who are facing homelessness. Homelessness can be a lot more hidden amongst women, especially with domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and trauma. The funding from the National Lottery allowed us to focus on women specifically and recruit and host women for training, as well as go on walking tours and help in that demographic.”

Hillingdon Times: The Marie Trust has received funding from the National Lottery, which has been praised by Strictly star Neil Jones The Marie Trust has received funding from the National Lottery, which has been praised by Strictly star Neil Jones

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.

Many people sadly won’t be spending the holidays in comfort and safety this year, and charities have warned that the “double threat” of coronavirus and cold weather is likely to prove fatal for some homeless people this winter.

With the support of National Lottery funding however, many organisations and charities are providing immediate and much needed help for thousands of homeless people throughout the year, including this critical time of year.

National Lottery funding helps to support homeless people in countless vital ways, whether it’s providing them with essentials such as shelter and food, helping them onto the employment ladder, or providing crucial services to improve their mental health and well-being.

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to provide much-needed funding to incredible organisations that are making an important difference to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Whether supporting people experiencing homelessness to improve prospects for employment, supporting with mental health or providing a safe place where people can build their confidence and self-esteem, dedicated groups and their volunteers are working tirelessly with the homeless community, so that they are better able to overcome challenges and hopefully go on to prosper and thrive.”

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