Ex-rough sleeper urges Social Bite to help Streetwork

Streetwork's Sam Taylor, left, with Sonny Murray
Streetwork's Sam Taylor, left, with Sonny Murray
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A FORMERLY homeless man has stepped in with a £4000 cash boost for a struggling charity which helped him in his darkest hour.

Sonny Murray, of Cowgate, was moved to act after the Evening News reported earlier this year that city chiefs had slashed funding for homelessness charity Streetwork by £200,000.

The 36-year-old was helped into housing by the charity in 2006 after spiralling drug addiction and homelessness devastated his life.

Since then Sonny has turned his life around, rising through the ranks of not-for-profit sandwich chain Social Bite where a quarter of the workforce is formerly homeless.

He approached Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn who agreed to donate an initial £4000 from September’s profits to Streetwork, with a commitment to donate more in coming months.

Sonny said: “It makes me proud to do something to help Streetwork because they’ve helped me loads. It’s Social Bite’s money and we’ve all worked to earn that.

“This is about enabling homeless people to help raise money to help other homeless people.”

Streetwork works with around 4000 homeless people a year in the Capital, but its council funding was reduced by 13.5 per cent in June.

Kenny Forsyth, Streetwork chief executive, said: “We understand the council’s position and the funding issues that result from ongoing public sector austerity.

“That is why we are delighted to develop relationships with the private sector to support funds to help us update the crisis centre and hopefully bring back our 24-hour service. This donation from Social Bite was a really welcome surprise and we’d like to thank Sonny for thinking of us.”

Sonny, who works in Social Bite’s cafe in Rose Street, praised Streetwork for helping him to find a hostel as well as putting him up in their night shelter.

He said: “The amount of things they do for homeless people is unbelievable. It’s an invaluable service.

“There are a lot of really important services that Streetwork are having to cut back on. When I used to go they had the night shelter from about 11pm.

“You’d go in and they’d give you a cup of tea and some dinner and you’d get a wee mat to sleep on the floor but they’ve done away with that.

“They still had a chef during the day so you could come in and get your lunch but now that’s gone too. A lot of people rely on this charity and wouldn’t be able to turn their lives around without it.”

Streetwork plans to use the generous donation to spearhead a bigger appeal to fund the renovation of its Edinburgh crisis centre.

Social Bite operates a “suspended” coffee and food programme which allows customers to pay for a hot drink or food for a homeless person. The business donates all of its profits to charities including Shelter Scotland, Vision Eye Care Hospital in Bangladesh and the MicroLoan Foundation which operates in Malawi and Zambia.