Our night out with the Hastings Street Pastors
The NSMC is helping to plan and test a pilot Help-Point for vulnerable people in Hastings during the night-time in late January and early February. The Help-Point will give people a place to recover and seek advice and support as well as offering a minor injury service. As part of the planning for the pilot we agreed that NSMC staff would go out one Friday night to see what’s happening on the streets and talk to a number of people who visit and work in the pubs and nightclubs.
We were kindly offered help by the Street Pastors who on every weekend no matter what the weather, walk the streets from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. They stop and talk with people, listen to their problems and then try to help them. Sometimes it’s about providing a cup of tea, a pair of flip flops to someone who has lost their shoes or simply sitting down and listening to their problems.
Both John Landels and I, who haven’t been out on the streets after 10pm for years, were amazed at the dedication and skills of the three street Pastors we went out with on Friday. They truly are providing a fantastic and vital service for vulnerable as well as often homeless people who need help during the night time. My experience of homeless people is limited and sometimes I have to say that I feel a bit threatened by their appearance or demeanor. However, for the Street Pastors the homeless are people who should be treated with respect, love and concern for their health and well being.
I met with over ten homeless people on Friday night and I was genuinely taken aback by their friendliness, politeness and their gratitude for the help that the Street Pastors give them – a warming drink, a snack pot or some welcome advice on where they could get a bed for the night. Many of them were really young - between and 18 and 30 - and some had known bad experiences that had led them to living on the streets, but all of them seemed to remain optimistic, somehow.
As we returned to the church for tea and a sausage rolls at 2pm, I was really glad that I didn’t have to sleep on the street in freezing temperatures or, for that matter, walk the streets every weekend as the Street Pastors do. However, the night has given me a new respect and admiration for both the Street Pastors and the people who live on the streets. The next time I see a homeless person I will definitely go over and have a chat and offer a cup of tea and, if I see a Street Pastor on the street on the rare occasion I venture out after 10pm, I will shake their hands!
The Street Pastors is an initiative of Ascension Trust and was pioneered in London in 2003. There are now 11,000 trained Street Pastors, and they play an active part in 270 towns and cities around the UK.