Street Pastors was formed in London in 2003. Branching out across the UK, they now have over 15,000 specially trained volunteers in 300 locations, patrolling the city streets and helping people in a variety of practical ways. Today, many serious issues affect the safety of our communities; violence, knife crime, drunkenness and disorder, and drug-related vulnerability. Responding to people in need, providing information and food to the homeless, and assisting the police and ambulance service in emergencies, the Street Pastors play a vital role in the solution to these problems, and offer a neutral and reassuring presence at night time.
Dennis, Coordinator for the Bath area, talks to us about the day-to-day responsibilities of being a Street Pastor, and their recent challenges.
“We go out each Friday and Saturday. There is no typical night for a Street Pastor; the only certain thing is that something will happen. We do a variety of things such as helping people sober up when they have drunk too much, escorting lone women in taxis back to their homes, patrolling the train station, and ensuring everyone is safe and able to enjoy their night out.”
Estimates based on national figures suggest that around 800 children (11-15 year olds) in Bath and North East Somerset are drinking to get drunk every week, whilst national alcohol consumption levels is above average for Europe. It is not just people’s drinking habits that need managing however.
“One of the biggest issues we face today is the use of the synthetic drug Spice. People who are under the influence of this are highly unpredictable; one minute they seem in desperate need of help, the next they are walking and talking as normal. It’s very difficult to know how to help someone and almost impossible to sober them up.”
The Street Pastors work closely with other organisations such as Bath BID, Nightwatch, the Night Marshalls and Taxi Marshalls, and local door staff, all connected via radios. In fact, Bath has been awarded the ‘Purple Flag’ accreditation for the amount of care, safety and services it provides on its streets, thanks in no small part to the Street Pastors.
Last year alone, the Street Pastors helped 274 people, attended 31 antisocial incidents, cleaned 5000 bottles of the streets, and provided 228 pairs of shoes and 239 blankets.
An entirely voluntary organisation, the Street Pastors do an incredible job ensuring the safety of some of Bath’s most vulnerable people.