Monday, 04 November 2013 21:09
Around 30 volunteers from Billericay churches hit the town over the weekend, to hand out flip flops, water and a helping hand to late night revellers.
Billericay’s Street Pastors patrolled the High Street and around Lake Meadows as thousands flocked to the town to enjoy the fireworks display.
Based at St Mary’s on the High Street, the group is one of 300 across the UK helping night clubbers get home safely.
Part of a national organisation overseen by the Ascension Trust, the 27-strong team armed with backpacks of vital supplies gave out flip flops, bottles of water and first aid to those in need and provided a safe haven at St Mary’s.
Rector at Billericay Rev Paul Carr said many people asked why the Pastors were needed in the town, but with 11 pubs and 14 restaurants within the 0.4 mile stretch of High Street, the Pastors saw a busy first weekend with a steady stream of people making their way to the church.
Billericay Street Pastor Organiser Phil Norton said: “It’s so exciting that we’ve got the opportunity to go out and help our community. I know many people will ask why we need it, Billericay is a safe place. Well, why wait until it gets horrendous and then start to come up with things that help. Let’s start now, and if we can let’s prevent it getting as bad as it could be.”
The team are working in partnership with the Town Council, local police and businesses.
Mr Norton added: “We will continue to build these relationships with police and door staff and pubs and restaurants. Already there’s great work being done county wide and we just want to add our little bit to that.”
Cllr Susan McCaffrery from Billericay Town Council attended the launch event on Friday. She said: “When we first heard about the idea, we were thrilled. It is a wonderful way of the church being involved with the people and not behind a door.”
Representing local police, strategic lead for Essex Police for strengthening communities Supt Nick Morris said: “It’s acknowledged sometimes that the police are not always the best people to deal with these problems. I’ve seen how in Southend a friendly face not in a uniform can be so effective in dealing with vulnerable people.
“Billericay is a great place for a night out, it has great restaurants and great pubs and it doesn’t have problems. We will always have some people who cause problems, but it is great to have people out there who can calm people down by intervening early. It’s great to see members of the public happy to give up their Friday and Saturday night to help the community. I would like to say a big thank you from myself and Essex Police to all the people volunteering to make Billericay’s streets safer over the weekend.”
Founder of the Street Pastors movement Rev Les Norris added this was not about lecturing people enjoying a night out. He said: “Street Pastors is about saying we care for you, it’s not about beating people on the head with a bible. This is an exciting time as the church seeks to be practical.”
Rev Carr added: “We think this is just the beginning of something way more significant. When the community sees the church doing some things that are not very pleasant it will give us more credibility. I think it’s really exciting and the beginning of something new.”
All Street Pastors have been members of the church for a year, have gone through training, first aid, seminars on youth culture, alcohol training working with local charity Synergy and education.
Street Pastor Rita Fabbri from Billericay decided to join after experiencing her daughter getting lost on a night out in London. She told the Enquirer: “I’ve got a 20-year-old daughter and last year she went out to the O2 with her friends for New Year’s Eve. She rang to wish me a happy new year and then 15 minutes later I got another call from her saying someone had stolen her phone and she couldn’t find her friends or her coat and had no way of getting home. She’s got epilepsy so I was really worried, she couldn’t even tell me where she was. 90 minutes later I had a phone call from someone with a deep voice, asking if I had a daughter. I panicked and he put her on the phone and then I spoke to him again, and he said ‘don’t worry I’m a Christian’ and at the moment I knew she would be ok. As a parent it is good to know there are people out there willing to help others on a night out and that’s why I wanted to be part of it.”
The Street Pastors will be out in the town on Friday and Saturday nights from 8.30pm to closing time, indefinitely.
Article and images from The Enquirer
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