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.