As the leaves fall from the trees and the dark nights draw in, some of us like to get cosy at home on a Saturday evening, but a team of volunteers spend it on the streets of Stamford town centre to ensure those enjoying a night out are safe.
Stamford Street Pastors are volunteers made up of church representatives, who support police and door staff by taking care of people who have either made themselves vulnerable through drinking or have become separated from their friends.
A key part of the team are prayer pastors, individuals based at the Street Pastors base in the town centre, who send prayers to the team and relay information to them about people who needs help, which is given to them by CCTV operators.
But Street Pastor numbers have dwindled from 30 when it was first set up six years ago to 22 and the group now desperately needs to fill its ranks.
Lel Nicholls, a community outreach Street Pastor for the Pastors, said: “In order to continue its good work, the Stamford Street Pastors are in great need support to remain an effective presence in our town.
“First and foremost we need more volunteers to continue to help, care and listen to those who need us but there are other ways we need your support such as displaying our posters, spreading the word amongst friends and family of who we are, or financial support via donations or regular giving.
“We are self-funding and don’t receive any funds from the parent organisation. Our 22 local volunteers commit to being out in the town centre as part of a team on Saturday nights - each of them once a month but due to many reasons including illness we are now a reduced team which puts a greater demand on our limited time and resources.”
Over the past six years, the group has helped 180 extremely vulnerable people and reported 105 serious incidents to emergency services and CCTV operators.
In a typical night Pastors will clear up broken glass from discarded glasses and bottles, offer flip flops to girls whose feet may be hurting and give out lollies.
Lel explained: “Wonder why lollies are given out? Ever seen someone start a fight with a lolly in their mouth?”
The Pastors also hand out bottles of water to the inebriated and talk to the public, business owners and doormen. They are trained to administer basic first aid act as a shoulder to cry on for those who are distressed.
Lel said: “It’s hard to sum up in a few words what Street Pastors are. They are that friendly non-judgemental presence who offer help and advice to ensure you have a safer night out in Stamford.
“Our statistics show practical support but cannot qualify how many ‘what ifs?’ as much of their work is preventing a crisis and de-escalating potential issues, being a calming presence on our streets.
“What if the Street Pastors hadn’t been there sweeping up glass before the bare footed lady walked by? What if they hadn’t helped the isolated man who had fallen in a deep drink induced sleep in sub-zero temperatures? What if they hadn’t been there to catch the woman as she fell backwards whilst drunk? What if they hadn’t been there to help your daughter, son or family member in their time of need?
“Under the Christian ethos of caring, helping and listening, the Stamford Street Pastors do just that – care for those who are vulnerable, help those in need and listen to people, some of whom are lonely with specific troubles, some who have post traumatic stress disorder or are struggling to cope with bereavements.
“Most of all they are a calming presence whose work is largely preventative. Crime and ambulance figures have fallen since Street Pastors have been at work.”
Dignitaries including the Bishop of Grantham, The Right Reverend Doctor, Nicholas Chamberlain, Lincolnshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner Stuart Tweedale, and Lincolnshire county councillor, Rob Foulkes (Con) have all spent a night with the team over the last couple of months.
And all three insist the Street Pastors are providing a valuable service.
Speaking after his night with the Street Pastors, The Right Reverend Doctor Nicholas Chamberlain said: “I had a truly wonderful time with the Stamford Street Pastors. I was impressed by their compassion, their wisdom and humour, and by the way in which they met everyone as a loved child of God, whatever their individual circumstances.
“As I drove home, the sun was coming up over the fields of Lincolnshire - a scene of great peace - and I could also be confident that all the people we had met during the course of the night were home safe. A job well done!”
Mr Tweedale said: “The response of the people on the street was overwhelmingly complementary, it’s reassuring to know there are people in Stamford who care about their community and they have someone you can go to if anything did happen.”
Coun Foulkes said: “Having been out on patrol with them in September, I’ve experienced at first-hand how they’re helping young people stay safe, in an open and friendly way. They provide a practical and reassuring safety net - Stamford is very fortunate to have them.”
In the past year the group has spent 1,259 hours out on patrol and handed out 183 pairs of flip flops.
Training will be given for those who wish to join the Street Pastors.
If you would like to join the group e-mail Liz Goodwin at firstname.lastname@example.org
n If your organisation would like a visit from the team e-mail communityoutreachstreet email@example.com