Kerry’s story: From living on the streets to now leading by example - The Worcester Observer

Kerry’s story: From living on the streets to now leading by example

Worcester Editorial 3rd Mar, 2019   0

KERRY Simons knows what it is like to sleep rough and the captain of Warriors homeless rugby team will be sleeping out under the stars again for the Big Worcester Sleep Out.

Simons and other members of the homeless rugby team will join Warriors staff, politicians, religious leaders and businessmen and women to raise money for the charity which has helped to transform her life at the sleep out event at Sixways in April.

Simons, 27, spent three months sleeping rough in Redditch five years ago when she was witness to a street robbery and was threatened with having her flat petrol bombed and her dog killed.

After sleeping rough in the woods near Arrow Valley lake, Simons was found accommodation at Worcester YMCA where her life changed for the better.

Simons was persuaded by fellow YMCA residents who were members of the pioneering homeless rugby team founded by Warriors Community Foundation to start playing touch rugby and within a month the homeless team’s coaches had encouraged her to try contact rugby at Five Ways Old Edwardians in Birmingham.

“I had a few friends at the YMCA involved in the rugby at Warriors. I needed a little push and they pushed me for two years,” Simons said.

“They kept going on and on about it so one day I decided to give it a go and I haven’t looked back.

“Playing rugby has really helped with my confidence. Before I was in my shell and I wouldn’t do anything but football.

“I coached a football team at the YMCA so I had that ability. But being around new people wasn’t normal for me and I would feel anxious.

“I joined the homeless team in October 2017. A month later I ended up joining a contact team at Five Ways OE where we played a game and they asked me to join them.”

Simons’ election as captain of the homeless team has improved her self-confidence and playing rugby has also helped her deal with anger management issues.

“Getting voted in as captain of the homeless touch rugby team showed that I meant something to the team for them to want me to lead them,” she said.

“That grew my self-belief. I didn’t really have that before but now I have got responsibilities to make sure everyone else in the team is happy. If they are happy, I’m happy because I know that I have done my job right.

“Before I started playing rugby I had a massive issue with anger management.

“Everyone loses their cool on the pitch but playing rugby has helped me to learn how to control it and use it properly. Instead of losing my cool I know that, as captain, I have to set an example. If I lose my cool, then everyone else will lose theirs.

“If I had not taken up rugby I would probably have a criminal record by now. I really just didn’t care. If you said something to me that would be it fists, fighting. I was lethal.

“I wouldn’t hit the person unless they hit me. I would hit walls and let my temper out in other ways. I was on a warning system at YMCA because of my temper and got a five-day kick out for it.”

Simons began working as a volunteer in the YMCA kitchen but is now about to start a new job as a support worker at Lifeways in St Johns.

Simons is also keen to support the team and charity which transformed her life which is why she will be taking part in the Worcester Big Sleep Out alongside players, staff, politicians, religious leaders and business people at Sixways on April 4.

The event aims to raise £65,000 for Warriors Community Foundation’s Homeless Rugby Team, St Paul’s Hostel and the Maggs Day Centre.

“We want to try to organise a game of touch rugby before the Sleep Out and we will help to build the shelters people will sleep in,” Simons said.

“We also want to stay out with them so that if they have any questions about what it’s like and how to cope with sleeping out then we can answer them.”

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