West Ham defender Ben Johnson visited a homeless charity to hear first-hand what it’s like to be on the streets.

He dropped into Your Place hostel in Canning Town on Friday (March 8)  as part of a project started in 2018 to support communities, from providing food parcels to offering CV advice and organising visits.

Johnson toured the building, previously known as Anchor House, which accommodates 155 people at any one time.

“I’ve learnt something I won’t forget,” the 24-year-old said. “Charities like Your Place are doing brilliant work to help change things.”

Johnson, a member of All Saints Church in Woodford Green, has football in his DNA, as he is a cousin to former Spurs and England defender Ledley King and to ex-Manchester United and England fullback Paul Parker.

He joined West Ham aged seven, signing his first professional contract at 18, then making his Premier League debut a year later. He went on to be named West Ham’s 2021 Young Player of the Season after 20 appearances for the first team.

Visiting the former Anchor House was his off-pitch contribution to the community — but it was also an opportunity to listen to people’s stories.

“I’ve learnt a lot about their fortitude,” he said. “The club can bring people together. Football is powerful off-pitch with West Ham backing charities like Your Place that make a difference to people’s lives.”

One story he listened to was from Maria who has been living at Your Place for three years and also happens to be a keen Hammers fan, having once played herself for Redbridge FC.

She said: “I’ve been on the streets and I’ve done sofa surfing — but being at Your Place just gives you that bit of independence and stability, a step up.”

Maria is studying social care to get a job caring for the elderly.

“Football has helped me get through some tough times,” she added. “It was wicked to meet Ben Johnson and nice for him to give up his time for us, which lifted our spirits.”

Your Place also offers health services, education and training, financial literacy, life skills and support to get secure tenancies when it's time to move on.