A South Wales charity that uses football to create positive social change in Wales has spoken in support of The National Lottery, which has provided incredible support to projects around the UK in an effort to tackle homelessness.

Street Football Wales is a social inclusion charity that delivers football for excluded and socially isolated people throughout Wales, offering opportunities for them by providing an open, inclusive, and safe environment to play football, make friends, and build self-confidence.

The charity supports socially isolated and homeless people on their own personal journeys by building a community around football that includes people from the local community, and has patrons of support, including actor Michael Sheen.

Street Football Wales was awarded £394,643 by The National Lottery over five years, starting in February 2019, to fund its Goals 4 Change project which included hiring three project workers based in north, east and west Wales, as well as paying for project overheads, volunteer training, expenses, as well as project delivery and management.

Hillingdon Times: Members of Street Football Wales with National Lottery ball displayMembers of Street Football Wales with National Lottery ball display

In addition to facilitating physical activity through football, the charity has provided a women's specific programme, training courses, advice surgeries, volunteering, supported work placements, and refer and signpost to partners and other specialist support agencies.

The project now benefits 3,800 individuals per year across Wales.

Street Football Wales Project Manager Scott Jeynes, 24, said: “We're not your usual 'sat across the table counselling'. That's not what we do. All our work is done through football and building an individual's confidence.

“We want to treat people as equals rather than treating people differently, and football brings that level playing field – football is the hook.

“I used to work in supported accommodation, so I've seen homelessness first-hand, and I've always looked at it from the perspective of health and well-being perspective of how we can use sport to improve people's lives.

“There's a stat that says you're potentially only two pay checks away from being homeless, but I think everyone always thinks it's nothing to do with them or always to do with drugs and alcohol.

Hillingdon Times: Street Football Wales works with people who have experienced homelessness with a shared love for footballStreet Football Wales works with people who have experienced homelessness with a shared love for football

“I've been working in this industry now for four years, and I can tell you that's not always the case. It can happen to anyone, and we don't need to look down on individuals. We need to be there to pick people back up.”

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 all over the UK during the last 10 years.

The 31-year-old professional dancer is now a regular fixture on screens across the UK, but just 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.

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.

Hillingdon Times: Strictly star Neil Jones has spoken out about his experience of homelessness as a teenagerStrictly star Neil Jones has spoken out about his experience of homelessness as a teenager

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.”

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.

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 www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding.