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Aberdeen homeless action group Street Friends receives massive donation of 250 sleeping bags to keep people warm

Stuart McCaskill from BP (left) has donated sleeping bags to Aberdeen Street Friends - accepted by chairman Albert Annand. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.
Stuart McCaskill from BP (left) has donated sleeping bags to Aberdeen Street Friends - accepted by chairman Albert Annand. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

Homeless action group Aberdeen’s Street Friends have received a huge donation of 250 sleeping bags from BP.

The group has been making an impact since they were founded in 2017 by handing out hot drinks, snacks and sandwiches in the city centre.

Also included in the donation were 250 sleep easy mats and 250 foil heat blankets.

The group says the donation will last them “a couple of years” in their quest to help the homeless in the city.

The donation was so large the group had enough to give 60 away to Aberdeen Cyrenians and a further 60 to Churches Action for the Homeless in Perth.

‘Already making a difference’

Aberdeen Street Friends chairman Albert Annand said he would like to give BP a “massive thanks for their generosity”.

The 69-year-old says they have already been making a difference to the people of Aberdeen.

He said: “We handed out a few of them last week. There was a couple sleeping in a shop doorway on Union Street with a dirty white duvet. Now they will be warm.

“Over the winter there is a demand that needs to be met. Especially with the cost of heating becoming so expensive.

“It’s not just the homeless people that need them. Those who live in council flats that have no heating often need to sleep in a sleeping bag.”

The kit includes sleeping mats, foil heat blankets, and sleeping bags. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

The supplies came from BP’s Claire Ridge oil platform off the west coast of Shetland.

They were needed in the case of an emergency power outage on the platform, but they were never required.

‘Make winter more survivable’

Stuart McCaskill was the BP maintenance team leader for the site.

The 37-year-old said: “The sleeping bags weren’t getting used, so I just thought, how can we use them?

“We reached out to quite a few charities, but Street Friends got back to me after I messaged them on Facebook.

“I am from Falkirk and I always know when I am in Aberdeen because it just feels so much colder here.

“Hopefully these can go to make someone’s winter all that bit more survivable.”

More people sleeping rough

Aaron Barrett, from Lanarkshire, is living in the city while he studies at Aberdeen University on a sociology course.

The 22-year-old has been volunteering with the group for six months.

He said: “I am loving it. I come around two to three days a week.

“We have noticed that there are a lot more people sleeping rough in Aberdeen.

“We had a committee meeting yesterday on the rise in fuel costs, more people that are not necessarily homeless but in desperate need.”

Picture, from left – Albert Annand, Aaron Barrett and Stuart McCaskill. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

Demand has been increasing for the action group over the past year.

Last month, their story was told in the Evening Express about how they were “restoring faith in humanity one food parcel at a time”.

‘Each day is a new beginning’

Justin Richie, 41, is the founder of the Aberdeen Street Friends.

The Fraserburgh native now works at the hospital as a porter but has previously suffered from alcoholism and depression.

“It’s people helping people. It helped me get through.

“Each day is a new chapter of your life. A new beginning.

“If you are sitting on the street all day they have no one to talk to. People look forward to you seeing you every morning.”

Aberdeen Street Friends volunteers outside their base in Cafe Nero. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

The group is based on the corner of Market Street and Union Street above Cafe Nero, who have given permission for them to use two floors of the building rent-free.

Here the group stores their clothes, footwear, blankets, and sleeping bags.

Other organisations that have donated food, clothing or volunteers include: Doorsteps Catering, Fat Face, Tesco, John Lewis, Baguette Express, The Bread Guy, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Cfine.

Members of the group are also trained in Naloxone nasal spray that can be used to help save someone from a drug overdose.

The group has stocks of donated food and drink supplies. Picture by Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

Mr Annand said that the group will continue giving out sleeping bags and food to the neediest.

“We don’t judge anybody. If anyone comes up and asks for help we will give it.

“99% of people on the street are so polite. They are people just like us.”

To get in touch with the group to get involved, visit their Facebook page.

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