The team at Street Friends Helping The Homeless has officially relaunched after coronavirus postponed their initial plans.
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.
Outside of the Marks and Spencer on St Nicholas street a queue had formed as regular attendees waited on food parcels, hot beverages, clothing items and other necessities.
Hospital porter, Justin Ritchie, started the group around five years ago when he began donating food to people on the street and set up a Facebook page.
He hailed the “amazing community spirit” for helping Street Friends continue their 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.”
The group work across from Five Guys in Aberdeen on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s to offer help to homeless and vulnerable people.
They were last night joined by members from Westend Football Club after an Aberdeen business organised for members to volunteer.
Owner of cleaning company Aberdeen Angels, Andrea Muirhead, 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 Westend 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 as he said the 14 boys in attendance were 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 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 are appealing for anyone who can help to get in touch.
Communications secretary, Sam Raion, much like Mr Ritchie, believes being outside on the streets is the vital in building up trust with those who need help.
As well as providing meals and necessities, volunteers provide a listening ear to attendees 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 are hoping to register as a charity next year.
What support has been made available so far?
A plea to extend emergency legislation to protect the homeless in Scotland was successful in August.
A route map to end destitution and protect human rights was presented to the Scottish Government on August 11 as 28 organisations backed a plea to extended emergency homelessness legislation.
The collective Everyone Home came together to come up with a triple-lock of measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on those experiencing homelessness.
Communities secretary, Aileen Campbell also announced £350 million funding in March to help those most affected by the pandemic, including those experiencing homelessness and rough sleepers.
The funds were made available to councils, charities, community groups and businesses to help the vulnerable.
During the pandemic Aberdeen City Council was expecting to see an increase in homelessness post-lockdown as a result of poverty and relationship breakdowns.
Aberdeen Cyrenians was one of the main signatories calling more homes, no return to rough sleeping and no eviction into homelessness
At the time, chief executive of the charity, Mike Burns, said he believed that Aberdeen had the capacity to meet all three of the steps outlined in the route map presented to parliament.
However, he was also aware of the adverse impact on potential eviction during the recent local lockdown as many lost their jobs.
Anyone can refer a rough sleeper in Aberdeen by calling 0800 917 6379. Turning Point Scotland also provides an outreach and can be contacted by calling or texting 073421 12076.