photo: former Chelsea player Paul Canoville with Chelsea Supporters' Trust Board Member Paul Hay

18 November 2019

Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club, hosted a sleep out event in support of Glass Door and the Stoll Foundation on Saturday 16 November. 

The event, organised by Mark Meehan and Cliff Auger and others through the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, has already raised over £25,000 split between the two local homeless charities.

Mark recalled how he approached Chelsea Football Club on behalf of the Chelsea Supporters Trust over a year ago with the proposal. "They asked why they should do it. I said: 'Why wouldn't you do it!'"

Mark went on to tell the assembled participants: "You are all brilliant." 

The Big Stamford Bridge Sleep Out

photo: participants gather in the east end concourse of the stadium for a group photo

Glass Door's senior comms manager Melissa Kerschen joined the event to thank participants. "The awareness and funds you are raising will help save and change lives," she said. 

Providing inspiration

Melissa talked to some of the participants about their reasons for taking part. Former Chelsea FC player Paul Canoville shared why the event was close to his heart: 

"I was a pro but I was homeless for about three weeks," he said.  

"I always wanted to be a player, ever since I was five. As the first black player here [in Chelsea FC], the racist abuse I faced was a shock for me. And then at the peak of my abilities, I was dealing with several injuries. So at 25 years old, I decided to retire. 

"I hit a downward spiral. I left school without exams, and I didn't know what I was was going to do."

Paul recalled how depression, drugs and cancer all took their toll:

It was frightening. I didn't know how I was going to survive, where I was going. I was sleeping in a car, but no one knew.

The death of his ten-day old son was a turning point. "I had enough. I went to rehab, and I had to learn to open up. That was really difficult. Part of it was cultural. In the Caribbean culture, you learn to never share problems."

I was saying I was fine, but I wasn't. 

Paul now tells his story to inspire others. Through his charity, he speaks at schools and says that sharing his story with kids has been important for both the children and for himself. "A lot of those young lads need a mentor. I can only be honest. That's what they respond to." 

Paul Canonville with Melissa Kerschen

photo: Melissa Kerschen with Paul Canoville

Mixed motivations

Season ticket holder Diana Jupp took part "because there shouldn't even be such a thing as homelessness," she said.

She and her friend Maxine Bailey set up their cardboard on the hard cement to raise funds and awareness. 

"I grew up around here just over the bridge in Chelsea," said Maxine. "It's disgraceful that the area has such a high level of homelessness."

It shouldn't be happening. I'm just doing what I can. 

Maxine and Diana at Stanford Bridge Sleep Out

photo: Maxine and Diana bed down on the concrete to raise awareness and funds.

Participant Andrew Bassett experienced homelessness for two months himself. After his relationship broke down, he left the flat he shared with his ex-girlfriend and fell into depression. He found himself sleeping under the disused grand stand in Brighton before he managed to find a route out of homelessness with the help of a day centre. He found running helped him refocus, and he has since taken part in several marathons. 

photo: Andrew in his sleeping bag at the Chelsea Stadium grounds. 

"If I can raise awareness, that would be a good thing," Andrew said. "I hope government ministers reallocate funds to charities that have these interests at heart." 

Neil Jones, another season ticket holder, came up from Nunerton to take part. There, he helps run a winter night shelter that takes place in his church. "Everyone's got their own story," Neil says. "We're all human beings."


If you would like to work towards a future where no one has to sleep rough in London, join the Glass Door community.

Consider:

Find out more about Chelsea FC's support of Glass Door: Glass Door wins Chelsea FC charity collection vote