STREET Pastors first arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2011 and have been a continual presence on the town’s streets ever since.
While the rest of us might be safely tucked up at home in front of the telly or enjoying a jar down the local, the volunteer pastors are walking among the lonely and vulnerable people on Friday nights from 8.30pm to 2am.
Maureen Green – a street pastor for five years and from Stratford – is the co-ordinator for the 13 Street Pastors in town. Their collective experience has taught them that rather than being a time of festive cheer, Christmas for some simply means isolation and sadness.
“We don’t just help homeless people, we help vulnerable people so they’re not on the streets at night,” Maureen said. “We stop and talk to people and try and help them. It might be a young woman who hasn’t got any transport to get home so we’ll wait with her until a taxi arrives to take her safely back home. We have dialled 999 for someone who was in an emotional state, who was confused and appeared suicidal. If we see broken glass on the street we’ll sweep it up so it doesn’t injure anyone or get used as a weapon. At Christmas there are a lot more people around so it is a busy time and it’s important we get to know people so we can help them.”
There are of course those famous trademark hand-outs the Street Pastors carry around which actually perform an important purpose when helping vulnerable people.
The silver foil space blankets keep people warm, the flip flops provide comfort to sore and swollen feet after a night on the town and help prevent trips on pavements. Woolly hats, gloves, sandwiches, drinks and food are also handed out.
The Pastors will talk with Accident and Emergency teams or signpost people to other support services if needed and then of course there’s the famous lollipops the pastors hand out which not only help start a conversation, they can diffuse a tense situation and indeed raise the blood sugar level for someone who’s had too much to drink.
“Street Pastors are the church in action for vulnerable people,” said Maureen. “We are Stratford Churches Together and we are also a charity so while we get some money from Stratford District Council donations are always welcome. If we only help one person then we’ve achieved what we wanted. Why should we huddle in our churches? We need to be out in the community.”
Maureen’s husband is Eddie and he too is involved on the management team of the Street Pastors in Stratford which in turn is run by the Ascension Trust – a Christian organisation which encourages individuals to work together to help other community members.
Stratford Pastors – who are all DBS checked – has established helpful partnerships in the town with Warwickshire Police, South Warwickshire Community Safety Partnership, Stratford Town Trust, Bard Watch and the Town Hosts of Stratforward, Stratford District Council and Stratford churches.
Perhaps the greatest asset the Street Pastors have is themselves. Summed up by the fact that they give up their personal time to stop and ask someone, “are you all right?” Sometimes it’s easier to cross over to other side of the street and walk away from the issue but the pastors regularly show vulnerable people just a little bit of compassion at time in their lives when they’ve probably forgotten it ever existed.
Donations can be made to help Stratford Street Pastors with their work. Contributions/cheques to Stratford-upon-Avon Street Pastors via Stratford Baptist Church, Payton Street, CV37 6UJ.
Or Text Giving 5carelistenhelp 70085
For more information: www.stratforduponavon.streetpastors.org