Fishing to help the homeless

After a flying start, hopes are that project can eventually be rolled out nationwide...

Fishing to help the homeless

by Angling Times |

A NEW initiative aimed at bringing the mental health benefits of angling to one of Britain’s most overlooked groups – the homeless – kicked off last week.

The groundbreaking drive is the brainchild of angling coach Ann Myers, who was determined to help after being contacted by the YMCA about a man who loved fishing but had his tackle stolen.

Alongside her team from the North West Angling Academy (NWAA), Ann set up the pilot scheme under NWAA’s ‘Angling for All’ motto, and its first session took place on a bright, early autumn day on Walton Hall Park lake in Liverpool.

The NEW initiative is aimed at bringing the mental health benefits of angling to one of Britain’s most overlooked groups
The NEW initiative is aimed at bringing the mental health benefits of angling to one of Britain’s most overlooked groups ©Shutterstock

‘A BRILLIANT DAY’

Under the watchful eye of support workers from Liverpool’s YMCA and Whitechapel Centre, 15 participants cast a line into the popular urban lake, and the event also received backing from tackle retailer Fishing Republic, which supplied bait, hot food and drink, and clothing to the participants.

“We had a fantastic day, with really positive feedback,” Ann told us. “Although the fishing was tricky, some carp and perch were caught, and it was a relaxed experience with loads of laughs being had.”

Margie Donnely, Support Practitioner at the Liverpool and Sefton YMCA, said the reaction from the participants was truly heart-warming.

“To see our people relaxing and stepping out of their comfort zones was amazing,” she said. “They haven’t stopped asking when the next one is. We are always looking for new activities for our people to engage in, and this has been an absolute winner.”

‘Mick’ – the man inadvertently responsible for kickstarting the scheme after having his tackle stolen – was also present, and revealed how the event had restored his drive to get back out on the bank again.

“I’ve always loved fishing, but after my gear was stolen from a flat a while back, I’ve not been able to go,” he said. “But this scheme has given me the chance to return to angling and spend time outdoors with good people.”

‘Glen’, another participant, said the day project had given his mental health a much-needed boost. He said: “Being homeless isn’t fun, but I had a great time in the fresh air and it really lifted my spirits,” he said. “Catching a fish made me feel good, and I can’t wait for the next session!”

Walton Hall Park lake hosted the first event
Walton Hall Park lake hosted the first event

EXPANDING THE PROJECT

After such a promising start, it’s no surprise that Ann has started making plans to expand the project. A further seven sessions are planned on park lakes in Liverpool, with one due to take place every two weeks, weather dependent. The next one is scheduled for Sefton Park, with the ultimate aim being to coach participants to a level of angling competence, after which fishing tackle and bait will be securely stored at homeless centres in many cities. This can then be signed in and out by participants, so they can access the wellbeing benefits of the sport year-round.

Ann added, “If anyone would like some coaching, we’ll be on hand to help, and we’ve already been contacted by people who want to get involved with the volunteering. We’ve also had tackle, clothing and chairs kindly donated.”

Ann hopes to slowly expand the project’s reach across the region and, ultimately, the rest of the country.

“The next big city in the area with a high homeless rate is Manchester, so the plan is to take the project there,” she said. “We’ll work our way west, visiting other areas inbetween, such as Warrington and Bolton.”

It’s hoped that the project can also raise the profile of park lakes and drive investment into these assets by highlighting to local councils the benefits they bring.

“If we can show the positivity that these lakes bring, we can hopefully convince the council to pump a bit of money into them to benefit the wider community,” she added.

But these are long-term aims. Right now, what Ann and her team need most are donations of tackle and clothing, as well as volunteers to help the project progress.

“We’re all volunteers, and from the feedback we’re getting, we’re making a difference to people, so if anyone would like to get involved or donate any old tackle, please get in touch.”

Would you like to donate tackle, clothing or a bit of free time to help out?

If so, please visit: www.nwaa.co.uk

The scheme aims to promote the wellbeing  benefits of angling
The scheme aims to promote the wellbeing benefits of angling

Ann O’Byrne - Liverpool Labour Councillor for Warbreck

“When Ann approached me to share her idea of the project, I was on-board straight away. We know that homeless people often suffer from social isolation that can impact on their physical and mental health. Angling brings them together in an organised activity where they learn skills and enjoy the therapeutic nature of fishing. It breaks down barriers, regardless of ability, and is both inclusive and engaging. I was so pleased to be invited to the opening session in Walton Hall Park. Everyone was so enthusiastic and happy. What a way to spend a day!”

Ann O’Byrne - Liverpool Labour Councillor for Warbreck
Ann O’Byrne - Liverpool Labour Councillor for Warbreck

#### FEEDBACK FROM THE PARTICIPANTS

he event also received backing from tackle retailer Fishing Republic, which supplied bait, hot food and drink, and clothing to the participants
he event also received backing from tackle retailer Fishing Republic, which supplied bait, hot food and drink, and clothing to the participants

**_‘Barry’:_**

“It was an excellent day and I’m really looking forward to the next one. Being in the fresh air was good for my mental wellbeing, and I’d like to thank Mick for mentioning it to Margie at the YMCA. Ann went to another level, and the hoodies we got from Fishing Republic were nice and warm!”

**_‘ZM’:_**

“It was a fantastic day, and although I didn’t catch anything, I really enjoyed myself.”

**_‘JD’:_**

“I went for the social element and it was brilliant to meet new people and enjoy the good food.”

**_‘KG’:_**

“It was a great day out. I really like fishing and can’t wait for the next trip.”

**_‘PG’:_**

“I had a brilliant time and caught three fish!”

After a flying start, hopes are that project can eventually be rolled out nationwide...
After a flying start, hopes are that project can eventually be rolled out nationwide...
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