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Home Is Where The Hope Is

Football took Jason Roberts MBE to the top – banging in goals for West Bromwich Albion, Wigan, Blackburn Rovers and Reading.

Two years into retirement he’s back where it all began on Stonebridge estate, Brent, north-west London.
He tells 24housing’s Bill Tanner “home is where the hope is.” If hope is a kid kicking a football in the street – what’s the goal?

Jason Roberts lets the question hang like a Jimmy Kebe cross. (It’s a Reading thing) Then heads – home.
“The opportunity to make the most of opportunity.” On the Stonebridge, opportunity came with knocks. Jason took his share as that ‘little footballer’ learning on the street what it took to compete… to win… to lose…

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Football took Jason to the top, since leaving the game his focus has been the Jason Roberts Foundation (JRF) set up in 2007 as a means to put something back into the community he came from – and others like it.

JRF kicked o in Stonebridge and Jason was there again this month to promote Hyde’s ‘more than bricks and mortar’ tenant aspiration programme. Stonebridge back in the day was a tough manor – by reputation one of London’s toughest.

 

Growing up, Jason saw toughness as resilience. The estate has undergone a £71m regeneration since. Blocks teased by the sight of Wembley’s twin towers have long gone.img_1284
Back ‘home’ Jason can still summon the spirit of those tough lives lived within them. Yes, he says, Stonebridge had reputation. But there was inspiration too, his Stonebridge being tight-knit enough for any block to be home.
As a child, he says, inspiration was etched into each familiar face found there, the friendliness of which belied lines drawn out by hard-won smiles oered from the old to the young in overcoming shared everyday struggle. A sympathy backed by the belief that life didn’t have to be defined by that struggle.

Stonebridge, says Jason, nurtured its roots. And will always bring him down to earth.“Best memories of my life, that little footballer… we played on the street, we played anywhere we could, we made do.”

The generation before Jason found freedom in The Cage, Stonebridge’s concrete pitch surrounded by wire fencing – a coliseum for no quarter, no limit matches of up to 20-a-side.

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It was in The Cage that Jason’s ‘Uncle Cyrille’ honed his skills.

That’s Cyrille Regis – look him up – to see why he’s looked up to. Cyrille’s younger brother Dave made his way in the game too, as did Uncle Otis, a Grenadian international who first started coaching sessions on the estate.

Uncle John was an Olympic sprinter and British 200 metres record-holder. So they go… Stonebridge stories Jason can share with the estate’s next generation – as he helps them forge their own. And through their eyes he says he sees his own experiences a new.

 
“The opportunity to make the most of your opportunity,” he repeats. “Hyde can foster that.”

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Jahanara Hussain, Hyde’s head of community investment, shows for Jason’s measured pass. It was in partnership with the Jason Roberts Foundation that the Hyde Group recently launched a football league aimed at helping youngsters find a career in the sport, whether it’s developing their skills to crack the professional ranks as players,  coaches, referees or physiotherapists.

“Pardon the jargon, but at Hyde we use what are known as ‘nudge principles’, based on the theory that understanding how people think, make decisions and behave can be used to help change their circumstances. Bad influences can be identified and eradicated,” she says.

Services and projects are, therefore, established with two aims: the obvious is to get people into their homes, but, just as important, it is to help them be able to stay there,” says Jahnahara. “Rather than just being the landlord.”

The Hyde Group is increasingly looking at housing provision as a partnership, where commercial goals are reached through helping residents to help themselves in attaining their personal ambitions,” she said. A pass back, then to the hope in that kid kicking a football in the street.dsc_0152