The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Vol­un­teers out on streets again to help city’ s needy

● Young­sters join for re­launch of group tack­ling home­less­ness


The team at Street Friends Help­ing The Home­less held their of­fi­cial re­launch last night af­ter it was ini­tially post­poned due to the coron­avirus mea­sures.

Al­though the vol­un­teer group has worked through­out the pan­demic, this is the first time they’ve been able to of­fi­cially mark their re­turn to the street.

Last night a queue formed out­side Marks & Spencer on St Ni­cholas Street as reg­u­lars waited for food parcels, hot drinks, cloth­ing and other ne­ces­si­ties.

Hos­pi­tal porter Justin Ritchie, started the group around five years ago af­ter he be­gan donat­ing food to peo­ple on the street then set up a Face­book page.

He hailed the “amaz­ing com­mu­nity spirit” for help­ing Street Friends’ con­tin­ued ef­forts.

“We did have premises be­fore but felt it bet­ter to go out on the streets again as it’s a friend­lier and more re­lax­ing at­mos­phere, he said. “Peo­ple have a bit more con­fi­dence on the street.”

Vol­un­teers work across from Five Guys in Aberdeen on Wed­nes­days and Sun­days to of­fer help to home­less and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

They were last night joined by mem­bers of West End Foot­ball Club af­ter an Aberdeen busi­ness or­gan­ised for mem­bers to vol­un­teer.

An­drew Muir­head, the owner of clean­ing firm Aberdeen An­gels first came across Street Friends when she saw one of their so­cial me­dia posts.

She said: “I saw their ap­peal on Face­book look­ing for food and socks. I couldn’t be­lieve there were peo­ple go­ing about with­out socks or shoes.

“My son started at West End FC and they needed spon­sor­ship for their train­ing kit so Aberdeen An­gels spon­sored them.

“They asked what they could do to re­pay me and I sug­gested com­ing out with Street Friends. I felt it would be good for the boys to see what is go­ing on in their lo­cal area.”

Head coach Scott McDougall felt it was vi­tal that club mem­bers recog­nise how hard life can be for many and saw the 14 boys who at­tended as the “young fundrais­ers of the next gen­er­a­tion”.

He added: “A lot of our boys come from a good back­ground – they’ve never had to worry about home­less­ness or worry about hav­ing food on the ta­ble.

“But you never know what can hap­pen and some­times its not through your own fault.”

Jamie Harper, 16, said the ex­pe­ri­ence would change a lot of the boys’ mind­sets as it high­lighted a dif­fer­ent as­pect of life.

Team-mate, Bradley McAl­lis­ter, 17, added: “It is a shock as you look at some­one and you never know what they’ve been through.”

The group is in “des­per­ate need” of stor­age space in the city cen­tre and is ap­peal­ing for any­one who can help to get in touch.

Their com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary, Sam Raion, like Mr Ritchie, be­lieves be­ing out­side on the streets is the vi­tal to build trust with those who need help.

As well as pro­vid­ing meals and ne­ces­si­ties, vol­un­teers lend an ear to those who at­tend and can make di­rect re­fer­rals to other or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Mr Raion said: “There is a mas­sive void of peo­ple who have been missed by the sys­tem.

“When you’re in this hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness or ex­pe­ri­enc­ing do­mes­tic abuse, it just takes a few kind words be­cause even that, in it­self, can build up trust.”

The group is reg­is­tered with Aberdeen Coun­cil of Vol­un­tary Or­gan­i­sa­tions and hopes to reg­is­ter as a char­ity next year.

 ??  ?? AD­VICE: Sam Raion of Street Friends ad­dresses play­ers and staff from West End Foot­ball Club on St Ni­cholas Street, Aberdeen
AD­VICE: Sam Raion of Street Friends ad­dresses play­ers and staff from West End Foot­ball Club on St Ni­cholas Street, Aberdeen

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