Arbroath Street Pastors

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Drunk, disorientated oft cold and lonely and ultimately vulnerable, the aftermath from Saturday nights in Arbroath calls for a different sort of care.

The fallout from weekend indulgence was so concerning to some local Christians that they decided to start up a Street Pastor initiative.

Set up in London in 2003, the organisation aims to engage with people who spill out of the pubs and clubs, late at night and are struggling for a variety of reasons.

The non-judgemental pastors head out on a Saturday night, in a group of three or more armed, with rucksacks full of supplies such as first aid kits, warm blankets and even flip flops, to aid those with sore feet and lost or broken shoes.

Arbroath Street Pastor and chairman of the management committee Seonid Cunningham explained why they are prepared to venture out at a time when most other people want to be in their beds.

“We listen, care and help, that is the motto. We want to combat loneliness.”

The Pastors attempt to engage in conversation, people who they see may be vulnerable and can offer help if needed even if sometimes that is just a hug.

Arbroath Street Pastors first hit the streets in July 2011 and have been lending a sympathetic ear ever since. “The initial reaction is curiosity,” said Street Pastor coordinator Elizabeth Cunningham. “There are so many lonely people nowadays who don’t have anyone to talk to. It’s a true saying - ‘a trouble shared is a trouble halved.

“We treat everyone as an equal, on their own merit it is an approach that is appreciated.

“One night there was a guy who admitted to us that he was an alcoholic and he delighted in winding the police up. He asked us ‘how am I not winding you up?’ and I explained that there was nothing to wind us up about. This absolutely fascinated him to the point where he stood and told us all about his life and you could see the stress and rage draining away, he was actually smiling and laughing with us, he kept saying ‘you’re actually listening to me’.”

Street Pastors is based on the ‘urban trinity’ in which local churches, police and local authorities work together.

Anyone over 18 can become a Street Pastor and there is no age limit. Volunteers are given full training by relevant agencies covering subjects such as drugs, alcohol, mental health and the law.

They work in teams of three in three or four hour shifts on Saturday nights once a month and are met not with disdain or violence but curiosity and quite often gratitude.

Elizabeth said: “I was doing a talk to a group of older ladies and one confessed that she felt much better about her granddaughter being out at night because of what we do.”

If you would like to find out more or want to get involved please contact Elizabeth Cunningham, 07432401943, email arbroath@streetpastors.org.uk or come down to an information meeting at Old and Abbey Church Hall on April 29 at 7 p.m.