The leaves have started to fall from the trees, and while it might be a beautiful sight, it’s a sign of the inevitable impending added pressures that come with being vulnerable and homeless in winter. In a move that could help to power services, Nottingham Forest FC and Framework Housing Association have been making moves to form the first official charity partnership of the football club...
While Forest have been known to support various charities over the years, there’s a special new relationship that’s recently formed with the city’s largest support system for the homeless community.
Together with chairman Nicholas Randall, the club’s owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns the Greek club Olympiacos FC, has driven the relationship forward. Marinakis is renowned for being a community supporter, having donated €1 million to help support those affected by the recent tragic wildfires in his home region of Attica, Greece.
The move comes after a dark period under former chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi, who was notorious for being less than community-minded and rapidly lost the respect of fans. It feels like a new era for the club, some say reminiscent of the Cloughie days, and while there are questions about the whys and hows of the charity partnership, there are high hopes from and for both organisations. “The club owners and the chairman want success on the pitch, but they also want to reposition the club as a central part of the city,” says Nick Ebbs, Nottingham’s current High Sheriff.
Nick had a big part to play in facilitating the arrangement, namely in joining up key people using his networks. His position has traditionally been seen as something of a tyrannical one; the arch nemesis of Robin Hood, and typically a champion of the rich. These days, the Royally-appointed role is more charitable, with the focus of responsibilities being geared towards the voluntary sector. For his year in post, Nick – whose background is in housing and regeneration – has chosen to support Framework.
“This partnership is about creating awareness of the homelessness crisis,” says Nick. “It's about people understanding what a dreadful scourge homelessness is. It’s also about raising the profile of Framework; an organisation that make a massive difference, with so many amazingly dedicated staff who work very long hours. And we’re encouraging people to donate, whether that's as an individual, as a company, or as a small organisation.”
Nottingham Forest recently held a gala dinner at the City Ground to raise both donations and awareness of Framework, who work with over 11,000 people every year; people who’re at risk of losing the roof over their head as well as those who’re already sleeping rough.
“It's very much about using the resources and access of the club to raise awareness of this issue,” says Chris Senior, Fundraising Manager at Framework. “We've begun to explore that with powerful videos of players like Ben Osborne and Joe Lolley going out to speak to rough sleepers. At the moment, there are around 45 people sleeping rough on the streets of Nottingham on any night of the week, which is up on last year and the year before.”
"This partnership is about creating awareness about the homelessness crisis and raising the profile of Framework
Framework have expanded on their outreach work to provide services across the county, even reaching Sheffield; whether finding, talking to and delivering healthcare to rough sleepers, or helping people deal with bills and societal demands before everything piles up too high.
“We’re dealing with a whole range of issues,” says Chris. “We provide support and care, accommodation and employment services, physical and mental health services, as well as substance and alcohol abuse prevention. Over the last few years, a significant network of public prevention services have been removed, so people fall from safety nets. We need to create resources for our crisis team to help people who are going to become homeless. Often it’s something relatively straightforward that needs to be done.”
Framework’s vital work needs to be supported, and both Nick and Chris hope the new Forest partnership is the start of a more sustained donation stream. “At events like the gala dinner, we hope to make connections so we can go on to talk about having longer-term partnerships. That's not done all in one big bang,” says Nick. “It's done over a period of time.”
This year, Framework’s Big Sleep Out event – which sees fundraisers camping outside in the thick November cold – takes place at the Brian Clough Stand in the City Ground. With attendees able to return to a warm shower and bed when morning comes, the event has sometimes been criticised for being tokenistic. “I suppose, in a way, it is,” says Chris. “But actually, just having that physical experience is the best way of getting engaged with the issue as close as you possibly can. It's our major fundraising event of the year.”
With a samba band, a shelter-building competition and discussions about the problems faced by the homeless community all planned, the event is set to stir some emotions, test mettle, and expects to see some high-profile heads knocking about, showing solidarity with rough sleepers.
And, when asked what happens if it rains on the night, Chris replies, plainly:
“We get wet.”
Framework’s Big Sleep Out takes place on Saturday 24 November, 6.30pm, at The City Ground
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