David Unsworth's dream of opening a house for the homeless within the shadows of Goodison Park has moved a step closer.
The Everton Under-23s boss and his squad of players teamed up with Everton in the Community in November last year to launch the 'Home Is Where The Heart Is' campaign, setting themselves the target of raising £230,000 to fund the purchase of a property in order to help young people in the Liverpool area between the ages of 16 and 23 at risk of homelessness.
On the eve of the 2017/18 season, it was announced that the fundraising total had been met and surpassed - with £244,400 amassed to purchase, renovate and manage a property.
Everton in the Community Executive Chair, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, who led the campaign committee alongside Unsworth and Everton in the Community Executive Director Phil Duffy, has confirmed that a location has now been identified.
She told evertonfc.com: “David Unsworth and his team have done a superb job with their call to arms and fans have responded - which has been absolutely fantastic.
“We are very proud to reach the target and we are very eager to purchase the property. Knowing the money is there enables us to move forward as quickly as we can and reach out and help those young people who really need our support.
"Now we have the funding in, it’s a case of getting those young people in there alongside a house parent to support them.
“Evertonians are certainly known for their generosity, but just under a quarter of a million pounds is a lot of money to try to raise in such a short period of time."
The funds were raised through a host of fundraising events, including a Goodison Park Sleepout attended by Unsworth and his Under-23 squad and a 230-mile bike ride from Sligo to Goodison by a group of 23 Supporters’ Club members.
Having identified a property, The Home Is Where The Heart Is campaign intends to begin small - although there are already plans in place to expand it going forward. And, as Barrett-Baxendale explains, the team will use the initial stage of the project to learn how best to help those young people who need it.
“We intend to have a small intimate project for the first couple of years to see how best we can serve and support our young people,” she added. “Then we will look at an expansion plan following that.
“There are so many young people in Liverpool who require our help and assistance. This first project allows us to help a number of those and to listen to them about how we can do that in the best way possible. This is a small project in the first instance but it is our ambition to have a property for 23 young people at risk of coming out of the care system as a legacy project from the Under-23s.
“It will be a very special day when we can step into the house and see it helping these young people. It has been a dream project and it will be a wonderful day when we get the keys and welcome young people into our home.”