Boxing group pulls no punches to help those who are homeless
published on 23 Mar 2023
A Salvation Army scheme is pulling no punches when it comes to helping people who have been homeless by providing boxing classes to improve physical and mental health.
Organised by Charlie Malarkey, who leads the church and charity’s Early Intervention and Prevention Team in York, which provides a drop-in service and early morning walks to support rough sleepers, the weekly classes are making a real difference to people who may have faced homelessness or have struggled with their mental health.
One participant who is now taking part in charity boxing matches, said the sessions were the ‘best thing that had happened to him’ and saved him from going down a dark path.
Charlie said: “I can’t tell you how much it helps people. The feedback we get is that the improvement to mental and physical health is fantastic. The last session we had 11 people turn up.
“Boxing is a great sport because it really gets the blood pumping and improves fitness, but is also helps with building resilience, focus and showing respect for others. It’s helped people make friends and that continues outside the ring.
“For people who may have led chaotic lives or are struggling with their mental health or an addiction, having something to focus on like boxing classes each week is a real positive. I’ve loved seeing how much people improve as they commit to it as well. We take it at their pace building up physical fitness which for people who may have spent time sleeping on the streets is really important. It’s also led to people reducing their reliance on alcohol and drugs.”
The classes are open to people who have linked up with The Salvation Army through the early intervention team or have spent time in the NAPpad, our pop-up accommodation that gives rough sleepers somewhere warm and safe to spend the night, as well as people from Changing Lives York Drug and Alcohol Service and the probation service.
One participant Jay, 21, who has spent time sleeping rough in York city centre before he was helped by The Salvation Army, said the boxing classes had a huge impact on him, stopping him from going down a dark path towards addiction and entrenched rough sleeping.
Jay said: “The best thing that ever happened to me were the boxing classes. They saved me from a lot of stuff. I had a lot of pain and had been using drugs to block what I was feeling, but because of the boxing and the help from The Salvation Army team, I managed to stop that before it got really bad.
“It keeps me afloat, if I didn’t have the boxing I don’t think I’d be as stable as I am. It’s hard to describe the feeling. You are encouraged, but go at your own pace. Everybody is respected and appreciated. The staff nurture you and it’s a loving environment so you feel like you can open up to them after being closed and self-contained for so long. I do charity boxing events now as well.”
A spokesperson for Changing Lives York Drug and Alcohol Service, which helps fund the venue for the boxing classes ensuring they can keep going, said: “Knowing the link between engaging in positive recovery activities and a move away from addiction and sustained abstinence, it made sense to work alongside Salvation Army to ensure the continuation of the group. This way, the success is being seen by all involved.”
The classes work on a referral basis. Charlie is looking for funding to buy equipment. If you would like to attend or make a donation please contact Charlie on 01904 416562.