A significant milestone was reached in Everton In The Community’s ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ campaign on Thursday, as the finishing touches were put on a house paid for by the charity and which will provide a home for vulnerable young people.
Everton CEO Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth and a host of his young players were on hand to spruce up the newly-refurbished property before the keys were officially handed over to the Club's official charity.
On a cold November night in 2016, Unsworth, his staff and squad grabbed their sleeping bags and slept out at Goodison Park to help raise funds to combat homelessness in the local area.
After taking part in the Goodison Sleepout in temperatures below freezing point, Blues favourite Unsworth and Professor Barrett-Baxendale launched Home Is Where The Heart Is, a fundraising campaign to support young adults on the cusp of homelessness in Liverpool.
A fundraising target of £230,000 was set with the objective of purchasing and operating a house that would offer vulnerable young people a place to live and benefit from the wraparound care of Everton in the Community (EitC).
Fast forward two years - in which time they have raised an incredible £244,000 - Professor Barrett-Baxendale, Unsy and a handful of Under-23 players went along to visit the house that their fundraising efforts have helped to purchase.
Situated just a stone’s throw from Goodison Park - and immaculately refurbished and decorated thanks to the help of many Evertonians who have offered their skills and expertise for free - the five-bedroom house will see the first group of young people move in over the coming weeks.
After seeing the completed house in all its glory, the Under-23 players – led by captain Morgan Feeney – quickly got to work in making the beds, fitting the curtains, sweeping the yard and cleaning the windows.
Denise, Unsy and Under-23 coaches Franny Jeffers and John Ebbrell spoke in depth with Sue Gregory, EitC’s Director of Youth Engagement, gaining more insight into how young people will be supported by the project.
Speaking at the house, Professor Barrett-Baxendale said: “Two years ago David Unsworth came to me wanting to create a legacy project, something for the people of the city and we quickly decided that we wanted to put something in place to support young people at risk of homelessness. The success of this programme has seen David, our Under-23s, our staff and our fans all actively engage with Home Is Where The Heart Is to raise funds.
“This home will have a tremendous impact. We can support five or six young people at any one time along with a live-in house parent. It’s a home that we would want our children, our nieces and nephews and grandchildren to live in. Most importantly, it offers the support of the Football Club as well and our ability to support young people into employment, education and training.
“We have the very privileged position of being known as ‘The People’s Club’ and we need to articulate that 365 days a year. This is another example of the values system at Everton and we work very hard to satisfy the needs of our community.”
Everton Under-23s boss Unsworth added: “It’s been an incredible two years and the campaign generated so much interest and support from Evertonians; it’s blown me away. It’s a very proud day to be standing here now in such an incredible house.
“The generosity of people has been amazing. From the Chairman to Big Dunc to Seamus [Coleman] all donating, to people joining us at the Goodison Sleepout, people making cakes and 23 supporters cycling from Sligo to Goodison in a fundraising bike ride – I’m just astounded by the generosity of people.
“I think everyone realised the importance and need for a project like this. In this day and age, nobody should be homeless. Everyone should have a roof over their head and an environment where they can prosper and succeed. We’ve managed to acquire an amazing property that not’s just a house, it’s a home and the wraparound care that these young adults will be afforded by a host of experts is just incredible – it makes you very proud."