STRICTLY Come Dancing star Neil Jones, who struggled with homelessness as a teenager, is highlighting the incredible support National Lottery-funded homeless projects have provided to people across England in the last 10 years.
The 31-year-old professional dancer is now a regular fixture on screens across the UK, but a few years ago he was in a very different position and, for a brief time, he even found himself sleeping rough on the streets.
With Christmas fast approaching, Neil is helping to highlight the extensive funding and support The National Lottery has provided to homelessness projects over the last decade.
And has joined forces with English homeless charities Streetwise Opera and Single Homeless Project to shine a light on issues surrounding homelessness.
Strictly Come Dancing star Neil Jones said: “With winter upon us and Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time of year to spare a thought for those who don’t have a home to go to or have somewhere safe, comfortable and warm to sleep over the festive period.
“It’s tough to think about the difficult things they’re going through at this time of year because it’s such a time of joy for most of us, but it’s important to recognise that there are so many people out there who really do need our help.
“Thankfully, there are countless incredible charities and organisations doing some really incredible work supporting homeless people across the UK with National Lottery funding.
“Having experienced homelessness, myself, I know just how crucial that kind of support is. I’m incredibly thankful to have made it through that dark period in my life, but this Christmas I hope people will take a moment to think about those who are still experiencing such challenges.”
The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, alone has awarded more than 600 grants worth around £80 million to projects that involve homeless people since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Streetwise Opera is an arts organisation working with the homeless sector to inspire change and empower people to realise their own creative potential – they engage world-class artists to collaborate with diverse individuals affected by homelessness to create powerful works of art, and to positively impact how society views homelessness.
While Single Homeless Project (SHP) is a charity working to prevent homelessness and help vulnerable and socially excluded people in London to transform their lives.
SHP’s Sport & Health Project aims to transform the health and wellbeing of homeless and vulnerable people through sport and physical activity, and thanks to the National Lottery’s £300,000 grant for the two-year project, more people who have experienced homelessness are getting active, prolonging their lives, improving mental and physical health, and reducing isolation.
Head of Marketing and Communications of Streetwise Opera Rey Trombetta said: “The National Lottery funding was absolutely vital. That money was core funding for us, and we can't have the planning, full time staff committed to the work that we do without them. Whenever a funder like the National Lottery gives us money that allows us to operate and the ability to plan these projects, they're really making it all possible.”
Sports Coordinator at Single Homeless Project Sam Sainsbury said: “The funding from the National Lottery has created more opportunities for our clients. Even implementing volunteer programmes involves having set staff, so the funding has allowed us to employ staff that can upscale volunteers. It's changed the amount of activities and opportunities for the clients we work with and the sports programme within SHP was all made possible by the funding.”
Since 2010, more than half a billion pounds (over £576 million) has been awarded to more than 3,000 projects that involve or support homeless people or help tackle homelessness throughout the UK.
Many people sadly won’t be spending the holidays in comfort and safety this year, and charities have warned that the “double threat” of coronavirus and cold weather is likely to prove fatal for some homeless people this winter.
With the support of National Lottery funding however, many organisations and charities are providing immediate and much needed help for thousands of homeless people throughout the year, including this critical time of year.
National Lottery funding helps to support homeless people in countless vital ways, whether it’s providing them with essentials such as shelter and food, helping them onto the employment ladder, or providing crucial services to improve their mental health and well-being.
David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to provide much-needed funding to incredible organisations that are making an important difference to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Whether supporting people experiencing homelessness to improve prospects for employment, supporting with mental health or providing a safe place where people can build their confidence and self-esteem, dedicated groups and their volunteers are working tirelessly with the homeless community, so that they are better able to overcome challenges and hopefully go on to prosper and thrive.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps charities and organisations which support homeless people in our communities. To find out more about National Lottery funding go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding.