The service users of an Aberdeen homelessness charity have thanked the organisation for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aberdeen Cyrenians offers a helping hand to anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their home through poverty, crisis, abuse, mental ill-health or addiction.
One man, known only as Paul, lost his job early in the pandemic and as his bills quickly mounted he was at a loss of what to do.
When his card was declined at the supermarket, he contacted Aberdeen Cyrenians to access food for his children.
He said: “We were home all day and the kids wanted food all the time. With all the panic buying it was hard to find stuff I could afford.
“Until my benefits came through, I just didn’t have enough money. It was immensely helpful to get support from Aberdeen Cyrenians, I don’t know what I would have done without them. They were so warm and kind.”
As well as providing food and toiletries, Aberdeen Cyrenians advised Paul on benefits he could apply to, and a budget for his expenses.
Paul was one of many seeking help for the first time as the lockdown took effect.
Another service user who sought support was being abused by her partner. The woman, who did not want to be named, came to Aberdeen Cyrenians for help and was given support to build her confidence and eventually, to leave the relationship.
She fled the family home with her children just as lockdown came into force. The flat had no carpets, light bulbs, or beds and the family had few belongings with them.
With charity shops closed, it was hard for Maria to afford the essentials she needed to set up the home. Aberdeen Cyrenians arranged for her to receive donated furniture and gave her bedding, kitchen utensils, toiletries, clothes and toys for her children, all donated by the public.
They helped her to change the children’s school, provided a mobile phone and data so she could continue to access support, and through it all, supported her emotional recovery from the trauma of years of abuse.
Maria said: “Never in my life have I been in receipt of such thought. I am crying.”
Earlier this year, Aberdeen Cyrenians joined forces with CFINE, Social Bite and Aberdeen Foyer to make sure no one was left struggling for basic necessities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The charities formed a partnership called AC2U to help individuals and families who couldn’t leave their homes to access essential goods.
In addition, Aberdeen Cyrenians launched four other services: Digital Skills and Connectivity for those affected by homelessness and unable to access services, Strength for Tomorrow, supporting those affected by childhood abuse, Care Choices, supporting independent living and RISE, supporting those affected by mental illness involved with criminal justice.
The team’s efforts saw them pick up the Key Worker (Team) accolade at the Evening Express Aberdeen’s Champion Awards.
Plans for next year include increasing support for LGBTQ people affected by abuse, discrimination and homelessness, and creating a new social letting agency.
Mike Burns, Aberdeen Cyrenians CEO, said: “This year has taken a toll on so many and we’ve all felt the impact, but as always it is the most vulnerable in our society that are most strongly and severely impacted.
“We’ve had tremendous support from local people, communities and businesses who, even in difficult times, have gone that extra mile to help others.
“It’s been heartening to see so much care and support being shared. After 52 years in the heart of the city, the community really is the backbone of our organisation.
“While we are hopeful that 2021 may be a better year, the amount of rent arrears and number of evictions waiting in the courts for next year means we still have an awful lot of work to do.
“Our focus next year will be on prevention work as we fight to ensure no one is left to struggle alone and that everyone has a safe place to call home.”