Everton in the Community has raised £25,000 at its annual Sleepout event at Goodison Park.
Ex-Everton player Graham Stuart was one of 130 attendees who attended the charity’s sleepout event on Friday (18 November).
The Goodison Sleepout helps raise vital funds for the charity’s Home Is Where The Heart Is programme, which is dedicated to helping those who are homeless or who are on the verge of being homeless.
Each year, hundreds of people gather in the much-loved stadium to sleep outdoors to get an understanding of homeless people’s plight and how tough it is to stay warm and safe.
This year’s event marked the penultimate event at Goodison before Everton relocates to its new waterfront home giving fans one of the final opportunities to soak up the stadium overnight.
Former midfielder Graham attended on the night to meet fans as a charity ambassador. He said: “Sleeping rough and battling the cold and rain is something that is sadly the norm for homeless people right across the country – but the work that Everton in the Community’s Home Is Where The Heart Is does is incredible and helps those in need during their darkest hours.
“The sleepout is important in raising awareness and increasing funds so that the charity can continue to support those who need it and I’m very proud to play a part in that along with the fans. It’s truly appreciated.”
Graham was joined by former drug user Dylan Bannon, who found himself homeless and addicted to cocaine just two years ago.
Lifelong Everton fan Dylan was able to make his first steps to recovery after being introduced to Everton in the Community, accessing food vouchers and later being referred to a drug rehabilitation centre.
He was supported by the outreach team at Home Is Where The Heart Is to turn his life around and is now passionate about helping the project to continue its vital work.
Dylan, 24, who is now expecting his first child early next year, said: “Everton in the Community saved my life – I have absolutely no doubt about that.
“I spiralled into a cocaine addiction when I was 17, using around £200 worth every day at my worst. I knew I needed help but didn’t know how or where to get it.
“After being put in touch with Home Is Where The Heart Is, my life changed for the better and I realised that their support was exactly what I needed. The staff there treat you like family and genuinely care about you which, for others in my position, is vital for recovery.”
Andy Mitchell is a regular participant of the Goodison Sleepout who has to date raised over £1,000 for Everton in the Community. He said: “Sleeping out at Goodison gives you just a tiny perspective and can’t possibly compare to sleeping rough on the city streets.
“My son and I were incredibly proud to represent Everton in the Community, and we’re even more proud of everybody who contributed to our fundraising. To help raise over £1,000 to donate towards the sleepout event was beyond our expectations in the current economic climate.”
Home Is Where The Heart Is, which is one of more than 50 programmes run by Everton in the community each year, supports young people through its residential house and extensive outreach projects across the region.
Sue Gregory, CEO at Everton in the Community, said: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who spent the night at Goodison to show their support for our Home Is Where The Heart Is programme and the city’s homeless.
“The amount raised will have a significant impact on helping us run the programme and help us provide vital support to people facing difficult situations. It’s truly heart-warming to see friends, families, fans and non-fans rally together to make a difference which they certainly achieved on Friday.”
To find out more about Everton in the Community and its Home Is Where The Heart Is programme, visit: www.evertoninthecommunity.org