The manager of an Aberdeen charity cafe says a sleep-out event will change the lives of the homeless in “massive” ways.
Amanda Robertson, area manager of Social Bite, says she and her staff see 35-40 homeless people every day.
The charity will be bringing its Sleep in the Park event to the Granite City on December 9, giving the people the chance to raise cash for homeless people by spending a night in Duthie Park.
The Union Street cafe, which gives customers the chance to “pay it forward” by buying a meal for a homeless person, sets aside three-and-a-half hours every day to hand out food to the homeless.
Amanda said some of the same people have been coming through their doors for the last three years.
She said: “Unfortunately, there are still some people that come in now who were here at the beginning.
“It just goes to show how much of a shortage there has been in housing in Aberdeen.”
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Amanda has been face to face with how tough it is for users to sleep on the street.
She said: “It’s awful, sometimes I can see them loitering around outside the cafe in the mornings.
“Some of them don’t eat other than what we get them, and they rarely sleep.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough for them.”
In the past three years, excluding Christmas Day which is not monitored, the cafe has given out approximately 13,500 free lunches, 10,300 free breakfasts and 21,400 free hot drinks.
On top of the distribution of food, Social Bite has pledged that at least 25% of those employed in its cafes will be homeless.
Three former homeless people currently work in the Aberdeen cafe, including manager Matt Thomas.
Cash from the sleep out will be given to three frontline charities in the city – Aberdeen Cyrenians, Turning Point and Aberdeen Foyer.
A portion of the money will be used to support Social Bite’s Housing First initiative, which aims to bring people who are sleeping on the street into more stable accommodation.
The £7 million project, which received £4m of funding from the Scottish Government, aims to cater to the complex needs of users, ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to mental health issues.
It is hoped that the project, – which will see 120 properties in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire freed up – is due to start moving a small amount of people in this month.
Amanda praised Housing First, saying it will “make a massive difference”.
She said: “The issue that a lot of the people we see have is that they like a drink, and now they can get into a place without having to sort out their problem, and they’ll actually get help fixing that problem.
“It’s going to change so many lives.”