York based rugby club ‘New Earswick All Blacks’ (NEAB) has teamed up with a group of homeless people in an effort to help them to become walking tour guides in the city.

The club will be organising a series of fundraising events throughout the year to support ‘Invisible York’, a local project established by a not-for-profit Community Interest Company called ‘Good Organisation’ which aims to launch the tours led by homeless people this summer.

The team’s first scheduled fundraising event will take place after their home game, on Saturday 13th April, when members of the Open Age squad, committee members and parents of junior age groups, will be sleeping under the stars to raise awareness of homelessness.

It’s also hoped that every member of the team sleeping out, will raise money for the project, allowing Invisible York to train and support even more homeless participants.

Jack Stearman, the NEAB Head Coach said:

“This is an exciting new project for the city and New Earswick All Blacks have decided to partner up with the organisation to raise awareness of homelessness and help provide some much needed cash to ensure the project is a success. While everyone in the team appreciates the considerable work that is being done to reduce rough sleeping across the city, homelessness still remains a huge problem and I think we were all shocked to learn that 11 homeless people died in York during 2017.”

Gavin Sullivan, one of the trainee tour guides who is being supported by the project said:

“Invisible York has been genuinely inspiring for everyone involved. You’re not only given the space to write and develop a unique tour of York from a personal perspective, but the training has helped all of us to build our confidence and learn new skills. We’ve had terrific support from so many local people, but to know that we’ve now got an entire rugby team backing the project, really does make us feel valued.”

Kenny Lieske from Good Organisation added:

“We’re absolutely delighted that an inclusive rugby club like New Earswick All Blacks have shown their support, and I’d encourage anyone interested in sponsoring their event to get in touch with them.

Invisible York doesn’t just provide practical support to improve the lives of homeless people, but also challenges public perceptions of homelessness, which is a situation that almost anyone can find themselves facing.

It can be a really complex issue, exacerbated by a whole range of different factors from simply not having enough money to pay for accommodation, through to mental ill health, relationship breakdowns or even problems like readjusting back into mainstream society when leaving institutions like the armed forces.

The confidence and communication skills required to operate a public tour, also have the potential to promote self advocacy, enabling homeless people to represent themselves, tell their own stories and show the human face behind the statistics.”

Jack Stearman added:

“As a coach, I know that there are a lot of parallels with Invisible York in our approach. The physical health rewards of playing any sport are significant, but it’s often the less obvious psychological benefits that have a lasting impact. Rugby promotes valuable communication and interpersonal skills that are strongly embedded within a team spirit. We hope to extend that ethos beyond the squad, which is why we’re always keen to support local community initiatives across the city.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the NEAB Sleep Out can contact Jack Stearman on jackstearman@gmail.com  or can follow the team’s progress on social media via @NEABlacks or @GoodOrgCIC on Twitter or search Good Organisation and New Earswick All Blacks on Facebook