The Homeless World Cup and a view from Left Outside Alone
Cardiff opened its arms to homeless people from around the world last week as it hosted the 2019 Homeless World Cup in the city’s famous Bute Park.
Over 500 players from nearly 50 Nations were greeted by a wonderfully organised and well attended event that left the crowds inspired by every participant and with footballs ability to bring people together.
The Homeless World Cup bid was led by Welsh Actor Michael Sheen, who helped publicise and pay for the event as well as attending many of the day’s games and events. Sheen said at the opening ceremony: “What we build here can change lives and not just for this week, for long into the future with the legacy that we will create.
“Our Welsh men and women’s teams are known as the Dragons and the Warriors. But you are all Warriors! Everyone here representing your country, to be here today, to stand here today, you have all been on a long journey. A warrior’s Journey. So, thank you warriors all!”
The Welsh teams were unfortunately not able to find ‘football glory’ in Bute park, Mexico ended the week as both the men’s and the women’s Homeless World Cup champions after a week of fantastic competitive football in the searing Welsh sun.
To find out what is being done for Cardiff’s homeless and how the World Cup has affected them, BASW Cymru joined Chris Newth from the homeless charity Left Outside Alone (who is also a BASW Cymru Community Spirit Award Winner) on Cardiff’s Queen Street.
Left Outside Alone is a homeless charity based in Cardiff, dedicated to providing homeless people with food throughout the week, often donated from local bakery’s, as well as much needed living equipment such as tents and sleeping bags.
Chris was impressed by the Homeless World Cup and thinks that more events need to be put on to make homeless people more included. Chris told BASW Cymru:
“The Homeless World Cup was amazing, why can’t homeless people get involved in big events like this more often! I went down and watched a few games. Some of them were really good footballers. I thought the Welsh Women did great and I think there’s a chance we can bring it home next time. I even know one of the girls from the Welsh squad so it’s good for everyone. It makes people feel like they are not invisible. I always tell them, you are homeless not hopeless.
“Having more events for homeless people is really important. I’m hosting an event myself for homeless people later this month where I’m going to take a load of guys up to a local spot to have a barbeque and maybe camp, but mostly to have a laugh and get them out of town to just give people something different.”
“The best way that people can help homeless people in their communities is to just involve them and not walk past them, just stop! See if they need a drink, or if they are hungry, or even just talk to them. We’ve got to tell people that they are not forgotten.”
This message of kindness was being echoed from the Homeless World Cup’s Bevan tent. Event organisers said: “By kindness, people didn’t mean headline-grabbing, ostentatious acts like paying for a hotel over Christmas. It’s the unbelievably easy actions like saying hello to the homeless person you see everyday, or allowing him or her to use the office toilet, or offering to buy someone a meal. These small acts are what homeless people themselves say would make the most difference to them”
Chris also argued that if the City was able to take care of the participants at the Homeless World Cup, then it could look after the City’s homeless population. He said: “They used a load of the student accommodation to house people for the homeless world cup but that housing and other similar is not used for the people that are homeless in Cardiff now. If it’s good enough for the Homeless World Cup then it is good enough for these guys.”
Chris, who founded the charity along with his wife Kelly, spent time living in the streets as a young man after falling into substance misuse. Chris was motivated by his then pregnant wife to get sober and off the streets. Chris and Kelly now feed the city’s homeless alongside their children, who helped give out food and keep a smile on people’s faces.
“My wife got me off the drugs and off the streets. She was pregnant and she gave me an ultimatum. ‘Me and your child, or the drugs’ and I chose her and my child. So, I got off of it all myself.
“Then, I was thinking, a lot of people used to help me when I was on the street’s so I wanted to return the favour. It is a nice feeling helping people because I know how appreciative I felt whenever anybody helped me when I was homeless. I know these guys appreciate what we do, they tell me.”
“My kids love coming out and helping. Its good because they will grow up to respect the homeless. Homelessness should be taught about in schools.”
Chris also spoke about finding out he won a BASW Community Award, he said: “BASW Cymru have joined me on protests every year, they know about the work I do, and then one day I had an email saying we had been nominated for an award. It made me feel amazing, it makes me feel that what I’m doing is being seen and appreciated.”
Follow Chris on Facebook @leftoutsidealonecardiff