Handing out flip-flops to women who have lost their shoesâ¦listening to a homesick student â¦helping people worse the wear for drink find for their way home – it’s all in a night’s work for Liverpool’s street pastors.
Since they started work in October 2011, the 40 volunteer pastors, have helped thousands of revelers in the city centre in numerous ways.
Now they are looking to expand their number, aiming to have 100 pastors working in teams of eight in the city centre on Saturday nights and the early hours of Sunday morning.
And the street pastors’ initiative is to be expanded into schools starting with a pilot scheme in Bootle with the intention of spreading to other parts of Merseyside. This follows a successful scheme in London where the pastors’ role was described as that of “chaperones”.
The street pastors scheme is the largest Church-based charity operating in the country. It is an inter-denominational service consisting of both clergy and lay church workers.
Despite its Church basis, the street pastors are keen to emphasise they are not there to preach to members of the public.
“We are not allowed to initiate conversations but are there to help people if they require it, “said the Reverend Keith Hitchman, one of the founders of the city’s service. “If people want to raise issues about religion then we will certainly talk to them about that and we will explain why we are there. We are there to fulfill the example of Jesus by taking care of their needs.
“We pick up low-level incidents which otherwise would take a lot of time of the police and other agencies. It can involve helping people who have had too much to drink by staying with them until their family of friend can help them home, or helping them find a taxi rank – or it can involve handing out flip flops to women who have lost their shoes.”
The pastors went through a training programme before they took to the streets. Within a minute of starting they received their first call- helping a young woman, who had too much to drink and had lost her mobile phone,. They were able to contact her mother who came to take her home.
Since then they have become a familiar and welcome sight in the city centre streets at the week-end.
“The street pastors do an invaluable job in the city centre along with similar schemes in areas such as West Derby village, ” said Councillor Peter Brennan, Mayoral Lead on Community Safety. “Their primary role is to help individuals who are in need but they are also taking pressure off police and other service. Giving out flip-flops, for example, means fewer women end up in A&E departments
“We look forward to having more pastors on our streets – they are a really welcome addition to Liverpool’s night-time scene.”
Inspector Greg Lambert, police neighbourhood inspector for the city centre, said; “Street Pastors have dealt with numerous vulnerable individuals who would have undoubtedly occupied a good amount of police officer time. Simply by remaining with them, escorting them to transport or arranging medical attention the pastors have been of great benefit.
“The feedback from the public, bar owners, and other police officers has been superb, They recognise the value of having such a service for many reasons. These include fostering feelings of safety by being approachable and available, through to providing practical help and support.”
Among the comments which have been received from both the public and street pastors are:
“You were brilliant when my friend collapsed; you’re an asset to Liverpool and Merseyside. I’ll be sure to tell everyone about your amazing work...” A member of the public
“As we started to go on our walkabout we came across a young woman sitting on the pavement worse for wear and upset that she had become estranged from her friends. “She told us she couldn’t get back into the club where her bag was with everything in it including her passport. She asked us to get in touch with her boyfriend to come and collect her which I did. I sat with her for 30 minutes till he came. We also managed to get in touch with another family member who with one of our team went to the club to see if her bag was there, on describing it to the doorman he went to search for it can you imagine the joy everyone felt when it was brought back with everything in it, including the passport.” Hazel – Street Pastor
“It was an horrendous night for the amount of broken glass on the streets. I took the responsibility of advising bare-footed girls about the dangers. I must have alerted over 50-70 between 2 and 3.30am.” David – Street Pastor
“My story is about the homeless man I met a few months ago. He sat and talked to me telling me how he come to live on the streets of Liverpool. As he told me his story he had tears in his eyes. When he finished he asked if I could help him. I gave him an address of a housing scheme I knew would help him. Now this man has a flat and is working. It makes me happy that I was in the right place at the right time that Sunday morning.” Sandra – Street Pastor
To find out more about Liverpool City Centre Street Pastors and for information on how to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org