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Colin Jackson and London Marathon back new running charity for homeless

  Colin Jackson CBE becomes founding patron of new charity SPAT, as the London Marathon grants their support to help more homeless youths across the capital

The London Marathon has given its official support to the new running charity, SPAT, providing financial backing for the next two years to help it expand its innovative services, to engage with and help more homeless young people.

SPAT (Social Purpose And Time) is a unique new charity that uses running as a catalyst for proactive and productive social change – the first of its kind in the UK. Engaging homeless youths in regular running & fitness-based activities run by voluntary instructors from local running communities, as well as inspiring professional athletes, in a supportive and safe environment. The aim is to empower young people, dispelling negativity and instilling confidence and self-worth – fundamental in their personal development.

Nick Bitel, chief executive of the London Marathon, said: “The London Marathon is delighted to be able to support this innovative new charity as part of our corporate social responsibilities. It’s long been recognised that sport can be an important tool for tackling social exclusion but this is the first time we have seen running used explicitly for this purpose.

“SPAT has shown within its first year that running can be used successfully to improve the employment, education, health and social life chance of young people. As an organisation which promotes the joys and benefits of running, we are pleased to be able to help it expand its activities, to bring support to more homeless young people over the next two years.”

Participants typically encompass a range of high support needs including mental health issues, drug & alcohol misuse and anti-social behaviour. SPAT is focused on addressing the underlying issues and counteracting harmful repeated patterns with healthy and productive lifestyles. Harnessing the psychological benefits of regular activity and improved physical health, it has and will continue to support more young people in successfully transitioning into employment, education and accommodation.

Tony Young was homeless for six months before taking part in the SPAT programme – now in long-term accommodation, he also volunteers with the charity: “SPAT taught me not to underestimate myself; they supported me every step of the way, helping me to overcome struggles and achieve goals I never knew possible. Now my life is back on track, I’m so much more positive and feel like I can pretty much accomplish anything.”

Colin Jackson CBE is SPAT’s patron, having initially engaged with SPAT’s founder on Twitter expressing he was keen to get involved: “Sport is the greatest passion in my life and has played such an important role in shaping me as a person. It’s given me discipline, focus and the confidence to believe in myself. All young people deserve equal opportunities and for those socially-marginalised, fitness can be pivotal. Creating positive and sustainable change takes time; what I love about SPAT is its uncompromised commitment to each participant.”

The charity was founded by keen runner James Gilley when he lost a close friend to a drug overdose, and co-created with the help of old college friend James Butler and Alex Eagle – a youth worker at New Horizon Youth Centre where SPAT piloted it’s services last year with overwhelming success. Of 37 graduated participants:

●    100% secured suitable or long-term accommodation
●    91% gained employment, education and/or training
●    91% ceased anti-social behaviour and/or re-offending
●    95% significantly reduced or stopped using drugs and/or alcohol

An audit conducted by Sportworks calculated a projected social cost saving of £4,427,008.


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