Ambitious plans for a £5 million football-themed homeless complex have been unveiled.
The proposals, which have been put before Edinburgh Council, include 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.
A public consultation has launched today to seek the views of residents ahead of the proposed opening of the “self-management and personal development centre”, close to the city centre.
The Change Centre is the brainchild of David Duke, the founder of Street Soccer Scotland, who has produced a plan in order to give the homeless the three essential things he believes they need in order to turn their lives around – security, relationships and purpose.
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, who has personal experience of homelessness, said he hoped that if the centre is approved, it will have a unique place in the local community.
He said: “The Change Centre can change lives for the better and get people back on their feet for good. It will offer hope, relationships and purpose, but much more than that it’ll break away some of the misconceptions around homelessness.
“We don’t want the Change Centre to be just another place offering a roof for people who are homeless. We want to be part of the community, working with locals and users of the Change Centre to build trust and understanding.”
Homeless people referred to the centre would help to run the facility using a social enterprise model working alongside members of staff – with 30 jobs being created.
In turn they would build up valuable transferable skills for independent living, future employment, as well as gaining a sense of purpose, friendships and daily structure.
David, 34, said: “The personal development programme would get the residents to help run the community facility by volunteering, cleaning, cooking, receptionist, football coaching and more. These will help their core skills for moving on to their own home and for getting employment. This is different to anything that has been done before.
“Residents will be recommended through the city council and other agencies with a decision based on suitability. They don’t have to like football as there are other things to get involved with.
“We want to rehome residents but only when they feel comfortable.
“There will be continued support after residents have moved out and would still be able to volunteer.”
A planning application has yet to be submitted to Edinburgh City Council but talks between the parties have already taken place regarding the proposals. If approved, the Change Centre would be situated at the home of Edinburgh South Community Football Club, which already serves around 650 players in and around the community.
Edinburgh South Community Football Club chairman, Brian Waugh, said: “We are firmly rooted in the community, with most of the coaches within our ranks living and working in the area. We pride ourselves in welcoming footballers of all ages, genders, background and ability to the club.
“When we first learned of Street Soccer Scotland’s search for a location to make an investment, we saw an opportunity to pool the resources of both organisations and contribute to a proposal which would maximise the potential of the site and deliver maximum value to not only our club, but the whole local community.
“We believe the Change Centre will do just that.
“Through collaboration, the Change Centre will help homeless people to find a purpose and direction in a community organisation.
“We hope that this can be an example of football bringing change for people who need it most, as well as benefiting our local community.”
The Change Centre would be at the heart of the community too, offering local residents the use of the facilities and the opportunity to engage and learn from the homeless residents.
David added: “Housing is critical in Edinburgh. The homeless need to be in secure accommodation and feel comfortable rather than being in bed and breakfasts.
“The Change Centre will save lives.
“It will add value to the community and change people’s perception of homelessness. I have funders for the development with the cost possibly coming down depending on a number of things.”
Developers are preparing a community asset transfer request to the city council for the land.
This is a three stage process ending with consideration from the finance and resource committee. Only if the request and planning application is granted can be Change Centre go ahead.
Morgan Playing Fields is owned by Edinburgh City Council with the land likely to be subject to a long-term lease to Street Soccer Scotland and Edinburgh South Football Club.
Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “The Change Centre is a wonderful concept on a number of levels. It’s far more than just accommodation, offering real support in a way that will help people to rebuild their lives and move out of homelessness for good.
“David’s very real and personal understanding of what people need means that this could be real game changer in terms of transforming temporary accommodation.
“We’re keen to support them through the process and, ultimately, find the best possible location for the centre.”
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