Thousands raised by campaigners tackling north-east homelessness

A group of big-hearted business people have helped raise nearly £9,000 for two organisations that support those affected by homelessness in Aberdeen City and Shire.

Inverurie-based Fennel Restaurant has raised £7,273.52 for Social Bite and £1,435 for Aberdeen Cyrenians respectively following a campaign to boost awareness around the hardships faced by people sleeping rough this winter.

A small team, including Fennel Restaurant owner William Bird and Nicola Cook of House of Maan, opened Social Bite on Union Street specially to cook Christmas Day lunch for dozens of people who would otherwise have nowhere else to go.

As part of the campaign, a special video was created by sister company Fennel Media which featured interviews with people living on the streets and addressed some of the misconceptions about the issue of homelessness. Local businessman Ian Garden, managing director of RigDeluge, also provided 100 Arctic sleeping bags and helped distribute these to vulnerable individuals in Aberdeen city centre.

William Bird, owner of Fennel Restaurant, said: “While it’s brilliant to have raised these important funds for two incredible causes, our aim throughout the campaign was genuinely just to raise awareness of the struggles experienced by people affected by homelessness and dedicate some of our own time for support.

“It’s been a truly eye-opening experience to see the sheer strength of people who have been dealt a bad hand, often through no fault of their own. Every one of the people we were fortunate enough to speak to was a true inspiration and it was really heart-warming to see how grateful they were for the little help that we could offer.”

The inspiration behind the video campaign – which has since generated tens of thousands of likes, shares and views across social media – initially came from Inverurie businesswoman and street barber, Nicola Cook. A long-standing supporter of homeless causes, she regularly visits people affected by homelessness and offers her hairdressing services free-of-charge.

Nicola Cook said: “It’s fantastic to see the appreciation shown by people who have fallen on hard times when you give them something as simple as a few moments of your time or cut their hair.

“Supporting people affected by homelessness is something that’s close to my heart and, in my view, it’s hugely important that those who are more fortunate do all they can to give something back. This video has done a terrific job of raising the level of awareness around the issue and dispelling some of the myths commonly held by people.”

Social Bite enables customers to pay ‘upfront’ for food and drink for the vulnerable in its range of cafes across Scotland – while a quarter of its workforce is made up of formerly homeless people. Aberdeen Cyrenians is a local voluntary organisation that provides ongoing support to homeless people.