Formerly a player’s lounge, the compact room now hosts minority groups, charitable organisations and in fact, any gathering of supporters that may like to use the space for an informal welcome and introduction to their local football club.
As a game versus local rivals Dagenham & Redbridge was scheduled for New Year’s Day, Anwar said: “Another new year and we are a little older and a little wiser. The festive break is an opportunity to rest, recuperate, enjoy and plan in the company of our closest family and friends. The sad reality is that such comforts and blessings are not a reality for many people and Christmas really highlights the grim truth with regards to some people’s reality.
“So we at Fans For Diversity came up with a concept to engage with our community and have teamed up with Leyton Orient FC Community Liaison Officer Howard Gould and soup kitchen volunteer Emdad Rahman with the idea to host some of our local homeless residents at the club. And it’s not just the adults targeted; over 130,000 children were recorded homeless over Christmas last year.
“Football really is a vehicle for change and unity and we hope that this match day experience will go a long way to easing life’s pressures for some of our fans in attendance. It may not be much, but we hope it bring some brief respite for our homeless guests.
“Leyton Orient is a club with a proud tradition of serving its community and myself, Howard and Emdad are really proud to be a part of this fantastic event. A recent YouGov poll by the homeless charity Crisis has revealed that 61% of Britain’s population feel helpless even though they are angry, upset or frustrated. To add to this figure, 7 out of 10 people wouldn’t know what to do if they saw a homeless person. Although finances are at the root of the problem we all agree that donating money to homeless people is not the answer. In fact, it can make the problem worse because of the various issues they have. This is why a kind gesture is often more practical: a hot drink, food, clothes, or paying for hostel lodgings.
“The new year is the advent of a new dawn and the pursuit of new dreams and we are delighted that football as our national sport can once again be a bridge between different sections of our community. This is an opportunity to really engage with some of the most vulnerable people amongst us. With the festive period being a particularly tough time for people who may have issues in their lives or who may be estranged from friends and family, or who are simply overwhelmed we are proud to stand up with open arms and embrace them as one.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind fans that homelessness is a year-round problem and most people find themselves in such dark due to life circumstances – It could be because of the loss of employment, a change in financial circumstances, life pressures, family break ups, the inability to cope with loss and mental health breakdown. We wish you all a very happy and splendid year ahead.”
Ultimately, the HUB hosted 25 members from the local community, all of whom were offered lunch graciously donated by the club, were given new scarves presented by Anwar and were the pre-match flag bearers and half-time penalty takers at the game.
Emdad Rahman, local charity leader and lead at the One-Third Soup Kitchen, remarked:
“I have been working in partnership with both Anwar and Howard since Stepney FC had the honour of being invited as the very first guests at the Leyton Orient FC Fans for Diversity community hub in 2016 and I’ve witnessed first-hand how special this club and the people within really are.
“In an age where it’s almost normal for football clubs to be corporate, it’s so refreshing to see the O’s putting community first. Nevertheless, I have naturally evolved to become a fan too.”
“On New Year’s Day we hosted homeless guests amongst others and I’m so proud at how we came together to deliver a great day in a sensitive manner to our friends in attendance.”
And Sister Christine Frost, who organised the younger guests that reside at the South Poplar & Limehouse hostel, commented, “The children’s faces gleamed with happiness. The crowd cheering them on gave them so much pleasure and confidence before we watched the O’s win 1-0! Leyton Orient FC deserves considerable credit for this show of gesture and making it a wonderful day for the homeless and for the young people.”
And Howard Gould said, “I’m so pleased Anwar contacted me back in 2016 offering help as it allowed an idea to flourish into this fantastic piece of community work. Since the HUB’s inception we’ve hosted around 2000 members from our local community and the special event on New Year’s Day was an excellent way to let those know who are less fortunate than most that there are others that are willing to help. We all wish that it is just the start of a Happy New Year.”
If you would like any more information on the FFD HUB or how to access it, please contact Howard via email: [email protected]