112,000 young people approached their local councils due to homelessness last year.

Alex Eagle and The Running Charity are on a mission to change that.

Speaking at our Club-Wide Online Meetup, Alex discussed the impact running has had on young people facing homelessness, incredible success stories and easy ways you and your business can help.

Thank you to Kreston Reeves for sponsoring the meetup!

Bradley Hatchett and Alex Eagle

Tell us a bit more about The Running Charity!

The Running Charity deliver running and personal development programmes to young people that are impacted by homelessness. 

112,000 young people last year approached their local councils due to homelessness. We’re on a mission to end that.

Why did you start the charity?

My background was sport, starting off coaching at Millwall FC. 

I then started doing football coaching for a homeless day centre. As the first wave of recessions happened in 2010/11, my sports work became less and less.

Me and a friend put a programme with 12 young people who were rough sleeping or staying in emergency accommodation. It invoked three sessions per week, goal setting, personal development and key work support. Within six months, they all became housed and much better runners.

The biggest change for me was how they walked into a room. When they first joined their heads were down and didn’t talk about their needs particularly well. 

Within that 6 months they could own a room. It was wonderful to see. 

It was never my goal to start a charity, but I was working on it in the evenings. It then spiralled into something bigger. One of our young people ran the London marathon, got support and we got requests to expand across London.

Why running? 

Running is very different to a lot of sports. I had a horrible relationship with it, I ran to keep fit for football rather than wanting to do it.

What it has is very unique, you aren’t dealing with anything but yourself. You’re with your own thoughts. It’s a time to reflect.

I was able to have deeper and meaningful conversations, especially with the young men. It was less intense. They saw I was struggling which helped!

It allows you to run side by side in a neutral setting, build trust and ask those difficult questions. Not having to look eye to eye really helps that.

A lot of the people we work with don’t have control over their lives. They’re dictated by different organisations and structures. You’re in control when you’re running. That’s the difference. It’s about giving power back to them.

How do you help support people in need?

A lot of the people we work with don’t have control over their lives. They’re dictated by different organisations and structures. You’re in control when you’re running. That’s the difference. It’s about giving power back to them.

We want them to reach their ‘impossible’ moment. Once you bring them to that point where they’re enabling themselves due to their own hard work, to achieve things they never thought were possible. That’s the catalyst to move forward. 

They then start thinking what else is possible, and how can they control the controllables to get to those goals.

87% of our young people reached employment last year. There was significant gains to their resilience and mental health. We’re very fortunate to work with an inspiring group of young people that just need a bit of structure. 

What have been the stand-out success stories for you?

Steve started as a 8 stone heroin addict, left a 13 stone personal trainer when he left. Two people that joined the programme now work with us full time. 

It’s a programme that works on the fundamental basics that most people learn when they are children: discipline, ability to communicate, mental health, emotional needs.

How could people help support the charity?

If you don’t run, give it a go. It’ll be awful when you start but give it a few weeks and you’ll love it. People call it free counselling. I’d agree. There’s never a run that doesn’t help.

We’re a small charity with 9 of us across the country. We’re in the process of launching a ‘Wellbeing at Work’ programme where we work with staff members’ mental health. Translating what we’ve learnt with young people into businesses. We’ve been working with Mercedes Benz and they’ve loved it.

Running for us and picking us as your charity of the year go a long way for us!

What are common myths you have to dispel?

Centre Point released a stat that 1 in 7 young people experience rough sleeping at one point in their life. 

That always hit home for me. If you go into your kids class, that’s 3 or 4 children that will sleep rough at some point in their lives. That’s how wide spread that problem it is.

Some people think it won’t be them or their kids. It so easily can be. 

Sometimes we have a community or family members that help us through those times as children. I can’t count the amount of times I messed up as a child and needed those people around me.