Keele students partner with Lou Macari to support homeless people

Keele Physiotherapy students have provided valuable wellbeing support to a homeless retreat in Staffordshire, as part of a new partnership between Keele University and The Macari Centre.

The Centre, based in Stoke-on-Trent, provides emergency accommodation for anybody who finds themselves suddenly homeless. It was formed in 2016 when former professional footballer and Stoke City Football Club manager, Lou Macari, saw a news bulletin referring to the rise in homelessness in Britain - he responded by forming The Macari Foundation which is committed to helping end homelessness in Stoke-on-Trent.

Since lockdown, the Centre has relocated to a new building featuring individual accommodation as modern ‘pods’, to allow the guests to easily retain social distance. It is in the new accommodation setting where Keele students have visited the Centre as part of a five-week programme to gain an understanding of the health issues guests face and provide education about managing these issues independently.

Guests were invited to sit down with one of the five Keele physios to discuss their own physical health and students were able to offer them advice and education on topics including the short and long-term benefits of exercise and lifestyle advise.

Students had an opportunity to learn more about health inequalities in society and common health conditions suffered by homelessness, meaning they could diversify their learning from hospital and other familiar out-patient settings.

Teaching Fellow in Physiotherapy at Keele, Georgina Eckersley, said: “This partnership is mutually beneficial. It has been a hugely valuable experience for our students as it has given them real-life experience in a setting which allows them to become more prepared to meet the needs of the wider population.

“For the guests at The Macari Centre, it has provided regular contact over a series of weeks with people who are seeking support. Our aim in the future is to set up a physiotherapy clinic at the Centre to provide more specific support.”

Founder of The Macari Foundation, Lou Macari, said: “This is a new and exciting partnership between the School of Allied Health Professions at Keele and The Macari Foundation. The last five weeks has seen our guests being invited to confide in the students about their health issues and naturally, they are cautious as they might have problems that they don’t want to divulge.

“If the students can build trust with our guests and allow them to feel comfortable speaking to them about their issues, it allows us to be more prepared to support them as well as them engaging in conversations about improving their health.”

Pictured above: Lou Macari with Vicky Pearsall (Physiotherapy Programme Director, left) and Georgina Eckersley (Teaching Fellow in Physiotherapy, right) at the entrance to one of the Centre's hubs