Sturgeon: Too few countries set objective to eradicate homelessness

Ms Sturgeon was speaking in a video call with Homeless World Cup founder Mel Young and Welsh actor Michael Sheen on Sunday.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mel Young
Nicola Sturgeon and Mel Young

Too few countries around the world have set a clear objective to eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland’s First Minister praised events like the Homeless World Cup (HWC) for its “powerful combination” of bringing a strong community spirit and wanting greater equality for people.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking in a video call with HWC founder Mel Young and Welsh actor Michael Sheen who helped bring the tournament to Cardiff last year.

She said: “We started with something that is so obvious but too few countries in my view do which is set an objective a very clear objective that we want to eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping.

“Not just reduce it or minimise it but eradicate it. We brought together as you know a group of experts to give us recommendations – short, medium and longer term – about how we went about doing that.

“We put some resources behind it and we have really pushed hard to expand the rapid rehousing ‘housing first’ model where we get people housed and then work with them and different agencies to try to deal with some of the underlying causes of their homelessness – but do that from the security of having a stable and secure roof over their own head.

“I think we’re doing the right things but we have a long way to go.”

Mel Young, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Sheen
Mel Young, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Sheen discuss the tournament (Homeless World Cup/PA)

Sunday was designated as Homeless World Cup Day in lieu of the final being played this weekend, with the tournament cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual competition began in 2003 and works with street football organisations to give people who have faced homelessness and other social injustices the chance to play and represent their country across the globe.

Ms Sturgeon admitted to being “a bit carried away in some of the matches” when it was last held in Glasgow in 2016.

Sheen said bringing the HWC to Wales was “one of the proudest moments of my life” having previously visited the Oslo edition in 2017.

He added: “From talking to people who’ve worked in around these issues the most compelling argument I’ve heard is that our aim should be to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.

“There’s not massive mystery about that it just means you have to do something about it when you get the evidence and put support in early so that they don’t get to the point where they’re homeless.

“As the First Minister says the housing first approach I think is the way forward but you have to make sure that it’s not just about taking people off the streets and putting them into buildings.

“There has to be the wraparound support there to help make sure that they don’t get back out on the streets again.”

The Damned United star also boasted he had “absolutely no doubt that Wales will win the World Cup”, adding “we better make sure the Homeless World Cup keeps going forever”.

Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen delivers an address at the opening of the 2019 Homeless World Cup in Cardiff (Max McLean/PA)

Mr Young replied: “We definitely want to keep it going forever but in some ways part of our uber aim is to not exist because then there’ll be no homelessness.

“That’s kind of where we would like to get to in the world but that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

“Wales have always been there since the beginning… and they’ve been great benefits.

“One of the mottos at the Homeless World Cup is that everyone is a winner.

“It’s everyone’s participating no matter if they win the World Cup or not – it’s changing their lives and that’s the most important thing.”

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