Ricky Hatton on the phone call that changed his life, as he visits young homeless people at Centrepoint
The Hyde boxer reveals how he was once estranged from his family and his life could have taken a different path.
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Ricky Hatton is no stranger to hard times. The British boxing champion has survived suicide attempts, drug addiction and a fall out with his family. The retired fighter from Hyde fell out with parents Carol and Ray Hatton over money, resulting in a punch-up with his dad in a car park in 2009. Nine years later, after addressing his own mental health issues and reaching out, he made up with them.
But he says this experience of hitting rock bottom helps him sympathise with the young people coming through the doors of Centrepoint in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Hatton visited the Oldham Street base of the charity which helps teenagers to 25-year-olds facing homelessness on Tuesday (March 28).
“Even though I was not homeless, the worst part of my life is when I fell out with my family and I was suicidal,” he said. “So I get it. Sometimes it’s just the way it works out, to be honest with you. I’ve been through similar things from a mental health point of view, so I sympathise for these people more than most.”
Manchester city council helped more people who had nowhere to live or were at risk of becoming homeless than any other local authority in England last year. The town hall opened 6,525 homeless applications in 2021/22 – 54 per cent more than it did three years earlier and higher than any other council in the country.
The situation this year is said to be similar with the number of households in temporary accommodation standing at 3,189 by the end of 2022. But as the impact of the cost of living crisis continues to be felt in the city, charities say more people are finding themselves homeless for the first time in their lives.
Research by Centrepoint suggests that 8,500 young people across Greater Manchester approached their local council because they were homeless, or at risk of homelessness, last year. Freedom of Information requests submitted by the charity revealed that youth homelessness increased by 29 % in Greater Manchester, compared to the previous year – however, some councils have disputed the data, highlighting inconsistencies in the way it was collected.
Hatton, a former world boxing champion, said that there were ‘nowhere near’ as many people on the streets when he was growing up in Greater Manchester. Jobs are harder to come by now, he says, and the cost of living crisis has made things worse – but families always fall out and people lose their jobs, he adds.
Now a boxing trainer himself, Hatton says there are fewer opportunities for young people to stay out of trouble these days. He suspects that this explains the rise in knife crime in Greater Manchester and other parts of the country.
“There was a youth club on every corner when I was kid,” he said. “But there seems to be very, very, very little for our youth to do now and that’s why I think they’re getting in so much mischief – it’s because they’re bored.”
However, when people become homeless, Hatton says they are often ‘fobbed off’. It ‘infuriates’ him when he hears that homeless people are a ‘nuisance’ and wishes that people would be more ‘open minded’ and less judgemental. He can’t help but give ‘a few quid’ to people the streets when on a night out in Manchester. However, he admits that this might not be the best way of helping.
For those with addiction problems, he says, this might make matters worse. So, although he does not doubt the sincerity of beggars, perhaps it’s better to put money towards a cause that gets to the core of the problem, he concludes.
That’s why he wanted to visit Centrepoint, he says – to see what they do for himself. The 44-year-old who has worked with homelessness charities such as Barnabus before, listened in on calls to Centrepoint’s helpline during the visit.
He learned what people go through to get to that point, he explains. Whether it’s mental health, addiction or family fall-outs, he says, “it’s heartbreaking.” However, he says the young people he met on the visit are ‘proof’ you can turn your life around with the right support. “I made up with my family,” he says.
“I picked up the phone regarding my mental health and I made up with my mum and dad. I had to say let bygones be bygones. What happened with my family doesn’t matter. It’s all about moving forward and putting the past behind.
“If I hadn’t picked up the phone and spoken to someone, I’d have still been on the warpath as far as my family goes. But, of course, I got in a better place because I picked the phone up and got my problems all sorted out – I was able to deal with my life a lot better.”
- The Freephone Centrepoint Helpline number is is available for any young person aged 16 to 25 worried about homelessness and is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm on 0808 800 0661.