Editor's Viewpoint: Success of homeless soccer charity shows that those living on the streets are getting help to turn their lives around
As the excitement and consumerism of Christmas increases, it is a time also for the warmth of families and friends, but sadly this does not apply to everyone.
Indeed, the thoughts of fun and family at this time are in sharp contrast to the harsh realities of so many people who find themselves homeless.
With colder temperatures, earlier darkness and later dawns, many of us are struck forcibly by the sight of those bundles of blankets in doorways containing homeless human beings, and our thoughts go to those wrapped inside such frail winter protection. Many of us may also wonder what brings people to such a stage of existence, but there is truth in the observation that many are victims of cruel twists in life, and that a surprising number of us are perhaps only a couple of months' stopped salary away from such personal disasters.
In today's paper we tell some of these stories, which inspire us to believe in the best of human nature and that redemption can be a reality with the help of charities such as Street Soccer NI.
Stephen Shields from Banbridge became homeless after his marriage broke down and as a result of other problems. Fortunately he was given an opportunity by Street Soccer NI to become involved in team games, to regain self-respect and to turn his life around. He even took part in the Homeless World Cup in Mexico last November.
Seanna McGuinness from west Belfast became homeless when her mother died suddenly and she had to move into a hostel for women and their children. She became involved with Street Soccer, and she also was chosen for the women's team in the Mexico World Cup, gaining friends and fulfilment in the process.
David McConnell from Londonderry's Bogside has also been helped by Street Soccer and though he still has problems, he says that they are nothing compared to what he once faced.
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Aidan Byrne, from Street Soccer NI, explains the inspired purpose behind the organisation. He says "While football is the hook to bring them in, we have a strong support network and our aim is to enable the participants to stay out of homelessness for the long term."
How good it is to know, or to be reminded, that lives even at their bleakest are still be capable of being changed, especially when there are people around to help.
Most people may be very aware indeed of the homeless as they walk by, but thankfully there are others who actually stop and help. Their efforts, like those of Street Soccer NI, need every support and gratitude from the wider public, and that means us.