Man behind £5m football-themed homeless project in Edinburgh shares his aims

David Duke, founder of street soccer scotland
David Duke, founder of street soccer scotland
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The man behind ambitious plans for a new football-themed homeless development in the Capital is determined to use his vital experience to make the project a success.

When he was 13 years old, David Duke’s parents split up. His mother moved to Dalmuir and he stayed with his father in Govan. He was worried about his dad’s alcohol use and didn’t want to leave him. They lived together, on and off, until David was in his late teens.

Ladies Captain Barbara Geddes and Mens Captain Steven Kelly with the trophys   Homeless World Cup teams return home

Ladies Captain Barbara Geddes and Mens Captain Steven Kelly with the trophys Homeless World Cup teams return home

“It was really, really tough at certain points,” he said. “Just having no structure in the household. Sometimes I had to go and get him from the pub.”

On leaving school without qualifi­cations, he began an apprenticeship as a panel beater. He also worked as a double-glazing salesman and later on the front desk at a branch of Arnold Clark. He had lost touch with his dad, and he was going out drinking all the time. When he was 21, his father died, aged 57, as a consequence of his alcoholism – turning his life upside down.

He said: “I didn’t know where to go. Being homeless is very dangerous. My accommodation was a run-down, single room with shared washing facilities. I had no support workers and was left to my own devices. I was surrounded by chaos. My self esteem was slowly disappearing. I had nowhere to go or be. I had no plan and was all alone.”

Everything in David’s life was disintegrating and he spent three years of his life without a permanent address. He found emergency accommodation scary which led him to making more harmful and depressing choices. During that time, he recalls being subject to abuse and discrimination both from the general public and from those whose job it was to provide support.

He said: “When you’re isolated for such a long time it is difficult to re-engage again because you feel worthless.

“My confidence was at an all time low. The stigma surrounded homelessness deflated me.

“Something happened in my life and I had no idea just how much damage it would have done. I was drinking all the time, but mostly through being in such a hole.

“Drinking to take the pain away and blot things out.

READ MORE: Plans for £5m football-themed homeless complex revealed
People see the person sat on the street rather than what they could be like in six months’ time with the right help.”

His life began to change for the better when he had a safe place to stay at the Quarriers-run James Shields Project. David also found friends while volunteering with the Big Issue and found his purpose through the Homeless World Cup.

After being part of the team that finished fourth in Sweden, he made the switch to the dugout to manage the team in Copenhagen three years later after cutting his teeth in coaching with Falkirk FC’s youth team.

Despite Scotland being ranked 33rd in the world, David led his team to glory with a 9-3 victory over Poland in the final that he described as “the best day in my life”.

He founded Street Soccer Scotland nine years ago – a social enterprise which uses football inspired training and personal development to make positive changes in their lives.

After the lowest part of the his life, David has turned his life around and now wants to help transform the lives of others who end up homeless.

His new venture – the Change Centre – will look to emphasise the key areas of security, relationships and purpose.

The £5 million complex includes 32 en-suite bedrooms, communal kitchens and a shared living space on top of a community hub – with two 7-a-side and four 5-a-side football pitches – on Morgan Playing Fields off Peffermill Road.

The motto for the centre will be “the journey home starts here” and will offer local people use of the facilities including a café and learning zones, as well as opportunities for local children and young people to use the centre, such as local schools and sports clubs.

David said: “I’ve been homeless and know a lot of people who are without a home. So I have experience to know what works and I firmly believe the Change Centre will make a huge difference.

“The Change Centre is not a sticking plaster for the homelessness crisis. It’s a new way of dealing with homelessness, offering respect, friendship and self-worth who are homeless and the community we’re in and finding solutions that work in the long-term for everyone.

“We want everyone to be a part of Change Centre’s success story.”