Running for 16-weeks, the Monday morning session at the Aldershot Pools & Fitness Centre on Guildford Road will help residents at the Society of St James’ North Lane Lodge and HomeGroup’s Stonham Housing Association, on Grosvenor Road.
The project has been made possible by Park Ward’s Community Grant scheme and the assistance of Park Councillors, Terry Bridgeman, Adrian Newell and Mike Roberts.
“I think this is a very worthwhile activity, which brings physical and mental well-being to either those who are directly homeless or who are sofa-surfing,” said Cllr Roberts. “It’s all about trying to get them back into society on a positive basis. Rushmoor Borough Council have been very positive and active in trying to work with various groups and organisations to understand what their needs are, and a scheme like this is extremely positive for both the people who participate and local authorities.”
The Society of St James has helped 13 people move on with their lives by providing accommodation and assistance with other issues, including drugs, alcohol and mental health problems – and have contributed to a fall in official numbers of homeless people in Aldershot.
“It’s been amazing, and really important for me because it gives me a reason to get out every week,” said Newell, one of the programme’s participants who had been homeless for four years before becoming a resident at the North Lane Lodge. “I didn’t have anything else. I want to sort my health out, and I’m trying to stop drinking and smoking, and enjoying a game of football is great!
“The Society of St James have been really supportive. They do a very good job, giving you guidance and setting you back on the right path”
“The main thing is getting them outside – meaningful activity is huge for our guys,” explained Nadine Sadler, Project Worker with the Society, “to give them a view that they can do things other than what they’ve been doing before, which wasn’t exactly productive or positive. A lot of them used to have regular exercise and that’s the main thing that they tell us that they want to get back into. And it gives them a chance to socialise.
“Luckily, the existence of projects like this make homelessness a decreasing issue,” she continued, after official numbers saw a significant fall from a recent peak of 34 people sleeping rough in the town. “Groups like Stonham and the Society of St James are really addressing the need for people to have independent living skills and trying to break the cycle of homelessness. We’re trying to stop people going back out on the street.”
The `Shots Foundation’s` relationship with the Society of St James began with the donation of free Community Stand tickets for residents to attend Aldershot Town matches at the EBB Stadium, and, says Foundation Manager Mark Simmons: “I was keen to develop a stronger relationship and see if we could support these charities locally. There was real interest in developing a weekly session and we were very fortunate to receive a funding grant from Rushmoor Borough Council and their Community Grants scheme. That funding has enabled us to use these facilities and purchase equipment.”
The `Shots Foundation`, launched in July 2017, aims to use the power of sport and the brand of Aldershot Town FC to offer a range of health-related activities to charities, community groups and schools. It has already launched football projects for members of Rushmoor’s Nepalese community and a Sunday morning coaching session for girls aged 5-11, at St Joseph’s Primary School.
Stonham, part of HomeGroup, is one of the UK’s largest care and support providers. They work with vulnerable and elderly people who have a variety of needs, including homelessness, substance abuse problems, mental health issues, learning difficulties, domestic violence and ex-offenders.
Established in 1972, the Society of St James provide accommodation and support to over 2500 people across Hampshire each year, to fulfil their belief that everyone has a right to a home and should be given an opportunity to develop the skills to lead a fulfilling life. These people often have diverse and complex issues surrounding homelessness, including substance and alcohol addiction and mental health problems.