Service user Jacqueline plays for Homeless Team England

26 September 2014

Jacqueline Thompson, 17, currently staying at our supported accommodation has been representing her country as part of the Homeless Team England football squad.

The squad is selected through the Homeless Football Association’s training centre which transforms lives by helping people experiencing homelessness gain self-respect and confidence through the development of leadership and other life skills.

Jacqueline has always played football as a hobby, using it to improve her low self esteem. “Porchlight helped me sign up for the initial training sessions and then gave me the encouragement and practical support to travel to Brighton and Hove Albion, once a week for five weeks. I never thought I would be able travel so far on my own and I was so proud of myself for doing it!”

Having impressed the selection committee, Jacqueline’s next stop was Amsterdam for the Dutch International Street Cup. Travelling with a team of seven other young homeless women from across the country, she admits she was terrified. “I’d never been abroad before and to go with people I barely knew was a huge challenge. Porchlight helped me apply for and buy a passport and gave me the courage to make the most of this great opportunity.”

The team soon formed a tight bond – “we were just like a family” – and took on opponents from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland in a specially built arena in the heart of the city. “We all felt nervous for the first game but as the tournament went on, we started to enjoy ourselves and the nerves faded away,” says Jacqueline.

With its focus on positive attitude, teamwork, commitment and interpersonal skills, Jacqueline says the experience has definitely changed her. “Before I was scared to even try in case I failed but now, if an opportunity came up, I would stand tall and go for it!”

She’s now looking forward to more training at the FA’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park where she hopes to have the chance to mentor other players and further improve her own personal and leadership skills. She’s continuing her A level studies at sixth form college and is starting to rebuild relationships with her family.

Richard Barnard, activities coordinator at Porchlight, runs regular football training sessions at the charity and says that the Homeless FA programmes are an inspiration. “Over 700 players – including a number from Porchlight – have taken part since 2012, with 100% of players reporting increased confidence levels, 63% progressing into further education, 58% improving their housing situation and 29% gaining full-time employment.

“These statistics prove that taking part in sporting activity can be hugely empowering and an excellent way to encourage vulnerable people to change their lives for the better.”

Photo: Joana Freitas