Formerly famous footballer has heart for Homeless

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The former footballer who set up a homeless shelter: ‘I thought surely we can do better than this?’

[Photo: Tom Reece]

This is taken from Stephen Nolan’s 5 Live show. You can listen to the whole of Stephen’s interview with Lou Macari here at 1:00:00.

Four years ago when he was at his home in Stoke-on-Trent, former footballer and manager Lou Macari saw a report about the number of homeless people in the city.

“Certain councillors were saying there’s not many homeless people in Stoke, others were arguing the numbers were too high,” he recounts.

Macari decided to investigate for himself and headed out. Within half an hour in Hanley town centre Macari had seen 25 people “without even looking for them”.

“It was cold it was windy and I thought ‘surely we can do better than this?’”

‘What have I ever done to help anyone?’

[Photo: Tom Reece]

Lou Macari began his playing career at Celtic followed by over 400 games at Manchester United. He played for Scotland in the 1978 World Cup and later managed clubs, including Celtic and Stoke City, for almost twenty years.

But, instead of kicking back in his retirement, Lou felt he wanted to give back.

“All my life I was in a privileged position and I just thought ‘what have I ever done to help anybody?’ and I’ve been in a position where I could’ve and the answer was I haven’t really done anything”.

So he set about trying to change that.

With the help of some people he knew in the town council Lou found a building and got a number of people off the street.

“I took the view, I can surely get a roof over their head, I didn’t for one moment think I could do much more than that.”

But people need clothes and food and before long donations were coming in from across Stoke-on-Trent and further afield.

Four years later the Macari Centre still pledges to provide emergency shelter and safe, short-term accommodation for people in need of support.

‘Pride in their pod’

[Credit: Tom Reece]

In March 2020, Covid-19 bought a completely new challenge to the centre.

Because of the risk of contagion the government ordered people to be moved out of dormitory-style shelters.

Many homeless were moved into hotels, but the Macari Centre had over 40 residents and Macari wanted to keep them together.

The solution came when Macari went for a drive in the country and came across some wooden pods used for ‘glamping’ in a field.

“I thought will these work in a warehouse? And I thought well there’s no reason why they wouldn’t.”

The pods were put in a warehouse “about the size of a football field” and kitted out with heaters and beds. Each had a front door with a number.

Macari says being given their own space has made a huge difference to the residents.[The old Macari Centre before the relocation had dormitory-style beds]

“They’ve gone from untidy people, to showing a great deal of pride in their pod.”

“Because there’s a number outside, they can now go to the job centre, they can say number 4 Regent Road and the house I live in is number 5”. Each pod also has a television, a donation from the League Managers Association.

Lou who’s a member of the association says he called in the favour “knowing full well the group is sponsored by LG”.

“The change it’s made is incredible,” Macari says “I’d stumbled onto something which is probably a far bigger help to homeless people than anything else that we talk about.”

“You forget homeless people don’t have televisions, they’re not out in the street with televisions and of course now they’ve shown an interest in everything.”

The second day they opened the new place, he says, “you could’ve heard a pin drop”.

Suddenly they had things to talk about.

“Through that box they were getting told what was happening all across the country, all across the world.”

Lou Macari says when he first set up the Macari Centre he didn’t expect to be involved so much.

He expected other people would run it and he would “disappear into the background”, but instead he found himself spending more and more time there.

“Because my name’s above the door, I want to be here most of the time because I want to do things right.”

This is taken from Stephen Nolan’s 5 Live show. You can listen to the whole of Stephen’s interview with Lou Macari here at 1:00:00.

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Published by technofiend1

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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