Street Pastors have been a regular fixture for more than two years for anyone enjoying a night out in Grantham town centre on a weekend.
The Christian volunteers aim to help those in difficulty in many ways, from providing water to helping people get home or even just lending a sympathetic ear.
We spoke to Grantham Street Pastors co-ordinator, the Rev Andy Scholes, about the scheme.
Q) How did Street Pastors scheme begin?
A) It’s a national initiative responding to some of the issues around pubs and clubs in towns and cities around the country. It was started in this country in Brixton by the Rev Les Isaac in response to issues like gang violence and drugs. It’s a church-led response and he wanted to respond in a positive way. As a result of that its popularity grew and it was successful in helping to cut crime. In some cities they have even had people handing in weapons and things like that, although there is nothing that dramatic in Grantham!
Q) How do Street Pastors help?
A) We are there to listen, we are there to care and there to support people. People often want someone to talk to and the police and door staff, understandably, do not have time. In practical terms we also sweep up broken glass, clear up any broken bottles and give out water and flip-flops, particularly to the ladies struggling in high heels! We are first aid trained as well. We just want people to have a safe night and get home safely at the end of the night.
Q) Tell us about your volunteers.
A) Our volunteers don’t have any agenda. All the volunteers are Christians but we are there to offer support and a listening ear. When we first started we had about 24 Street Pastors and 16 Prayer Pastors. The numbers have changed since we started in March, 2010 but we now have a similar number to when we started. We go out in teams of four Street Pastors with at least three Prayer Pastors waiting back at base for the duration.
Q) What reaction do you get from people on a night out?
A) It led to a lot of intrigue at the start and we did a lot of work explaining who we are and what we do. We have never been threatened but we get a little bit of light-hearted banter from people - “Oh, it’s the Street Pasties!” - that kind of thing. But people realise we are not there in the same sense the police and door staff are there - we are there to lend a hand. We’ll get people come up and say “thank you very much for what you did for my pal two weeks ago”. All-in-all the conversations we have are very positive. We don’t get involved in any kind of trouble but we help pick up the pieces afterwards.
Q) Is Christmas a particularly busy time for the Street Pastors?
A) Over the two years the numbers have actually gone down a little near Christmas. I don’t know if that’s because of the economy or people choosing to drink at home or getting drink from the supermarkets. We write a report every evening after we have been out and we are noticing the evenings are quieter in the number of people going out generally.
Q) What is the most rewarding part of the role?
A) When you get people who are a little bit worse for wear and you’re able to wait with them and get in touch with friends and family to make sure they get home safe the you see the appreciation of friends and family. They appreciate us taking the time to help get them home safely. On very, very rare occasions we have been able to pray with people - people who have asked us if we would mind praying with them. It’s a privilege, as a Christian, to do that.