Everton’s Under-23 team has hit the £230,000 fundraising target for their ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ campaign.
The fundraising drive saw former Blues FA Cup-winning defender and current Under-23s manager David Unsworth and his young players take on the battle against homelessness by raising enough money to fund and develop a supported living initiative to be delivered by Everton in the Community. The money raised will be used to purchase and operate a house close to Goodison Park which will offer 16-23-year-olds who have fallen on hard times, or perhaps fallen out of the care system, a place to stay in Liverpool.
As well as offering young adults a roof over their head in difficult times, the Club’s official charity will play a large part in their development by providing them with access to key services, including health and wellbeing support and assistance with education employment and training - as well as encouraging them to contribute to the local community through the NCS programme and volunteering.
‘Home Is Where The Heart Is,’ launched in November 2016 with the ‘Goodison Sleepout’, an event which saw the full under-23 squad, members of the coaching staff and Everton supporters sleep in the stands at Goodison Park on what turned out to be the coldest night of the year.
Throughout the 2016/17 season, Unsworth and his team worked tirelessly to help raise awareness for the ever-growing issue of homelessness in Merseyside - balancing their commitment to the fundraising objective with their journey to winning the inaugural Premier League 2 title.
From spending time with families at the Belvidere Family Centre on Christmas Day - preparing and cooking a full Christmas lunch for people who access the facilities of the Whitechapel Centre - to hosting the inaugural Everton Ultimate Chef event and dedicating two Under-23 Goodison Park fixtures to the campaign, Unsworth and his players helped to raise a total of £244,400. The campaign inspired the world of football and was boosted by significant cash donations from Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright, Blues Giant Duncan Ferguson, Toffees right-back Seamus Coleman and the Everton Board of Directors.
‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ was also supported by Everton’s Supporters’ Club network, with 23 fans taking on the ‘Sligo to Goodison Cycle Challenge’ on the hottest weekend of the year in June. The intrepid Blues cycled 230 miles in just 36 hours in a bid to raise £60,000 for the campaign. The group made up of officially-affiliated Supporters’ Clubs reached their fundraising target earlier this week, thanks to a £6,680 donation from Everton’s own number 23, Seamus Coleman, who transferred to Everton from Sligo Rovers for just £60,000 in 2009.
David Unsworth said: “I would like to say a massive thank you to everybody from the committee, to all the fans and the Under-23 players who have taken part in our amazing campaign.
“To finally reach the target is an amazing achievement and to have done it as quickly as we have is just fabulous.
“To be able to finish the project and help the people in Liverpool who need it most, it’s the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
“We’ve done something special and we will continue to help, support and fund the project. It’s just great to be able to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Thank you so much to everybody who has played a part.”
Everton in the Community’s Executive Chair, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, added: “For us to reach such an ambitious fundraising target in such a short amount of time epitomises the spirit of not just Evertonians but the people of Liverpool in general, who have wholeheartedly got behind this campaign to help us combat homelessness in our city.
“We will not rest on our laurels now the money has been raised and will continue our search to find a house close to Goodison Park where we can offer young people who have fallen on hard times or come out of the care system, a place to stay in Liverpool before they become homeless.”
Although the fundraising target has now been reached, the campaign is on-going with plenty of ways for fans to get involved. Supporters can directly donate to the cause through the ‘Home is Where the Heart is’ JustGiving page or alternatively, please contact Everton in the Community if you are able to support the campaign with items or services which could be used for developing a house or perhaps help a young person with their social development, such as driving lessons or clothing for job interviews.