Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw visited a unique project which uses football and activity to engage homeless and vulnerable people.
Run by CITY Community Trust, the Opportunity Club takes place at Riverside Leisure Centre every Tuesday, when teams of players, who may be homeless, vulnerable, or with complex mental health needs, take part in football sessions at the centre.
Ben Bradshaw attended one of their sessions, where he met the participants and heard more about the work of CITY Community Trust (CCT).
He said: ‘It’s great to see these people getting an opportunity to have fun, play sport, get fit, learn leadership skills and teamwork. They get to benefit from some of the fantastic work that CITY Community Trust does in Exeter, which includes a whole range of activities helping people get back on their feet.
‘We live in a country that has quite a lot of social problems, whether it’s young people coming out of care, people leaving prison, or the armed forces, as well as people with drug and alcohol problems.
‘A lot of the statutory support that used to be there simply isn’t there anymore, so work from organisations like CITY Community Trust is more important now than it has ever been.’
Ben Bradshaw pictured with the Opportunity Club, CCT Head of Community Jamie Vittles, Exeter City Football Club Chairman Julian Tagg and Disability Officer Will Allan
Jamie Vittles, head of community for CCT said they were delighted to welcome the MP to see the work of the initiative.
He added: ‘We have been running the Opportunity Club for over two years. Over this time we have had more than 200 people take part in the sessions, it was great to show this to Ben and also to tell him a bit more about our charity.
‘We are dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people from all walks of life, across Greater Exeter. This can range from activities for the hardest to reach members of the community, to sessions in schools or for older people, or our many running events.’
CITY Community Trust works in partnership with Exeter City Football Club and was established more than 25 years ago.
Will Allan, disability officer for CCT, runs the Opportunity Club sessions and works in partnership with homeless organisations, including the Amber Foundation, RISE, Julian House, CoLab and the YMCA.
He added: ‘The feedback we have had about this initiative has been very positive. It gives participants structure to their lives, a chance to exercise and helps to ease the feeling of isolation. The members of staff from the organisations we work with also say the sessions are a constructive way for them to work with their client group, which allows them to interact on a very human level and helps to build relationships and trust.’