Former addicts versus police in footie match
Former drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless people went head to head this week with police - on the football pitch.
The Octopus Group, based in Church Street, Croydon, helps addicts and vulnerable people off the streets and into community projects, sport, college and work.
Its football team is given coaching by Crystal Palace FC, who this week helped the football team take on the police, at football.
Participants who once found themselves on the wrong side of the law, lined up against police in a match last week organised by Police Community Support Officer Lorraine Thompson (PCSO), who runs the group.
She said: "I didn’t want them back on the drink or drugs so we gave them something to focus on. Now they have made friends, they do not associate with people from those scenes."
After Octopus asked Crystal Palace FC for help, the club agreed to send two coaches to train with them every Tuesday, and some members will even take FA coaching qualifications as a result.
For one group member, the activities and support provided by Octopus are what helped him turn his life around from being a heroin addict on the streets.
Paul James, 42, has also suffered mental health problems, and turned to the group less than eight months ago.
He said: "This organisation is great because you have people here who are all in the same boat. "I have stayed clean since I came here. Octopus has given me more belief - I was just existing before but now I am really living."
As well as litter-picking, local building renovation and cleaning in Croydon, Lorraine has plans to set up more matches between her group members and fellow police officers.
"I am doing it so that the police can understand that these people can change their lives, and so Octopus group members can see that police are real people too."