The leader of Northampton’s main church has backed the Chronicle & Echo’s call for Safe Places for people who feel vulnerable on nights out in the town.
And Father Oliver Coss said he wants to take the first step and explore putting a marquee outside All Saints Church – in the heart of the town’s nightspots – where people can wait for friends or a taxi in safety.
He said: “I think Safe Places are something Northampton town centre has been crying out for for a long time.
“People, especially women, can easily find themselves alone and isolated while out enjoying themselves and more should be done to offer them places not only where they are safe but, importantly, where they can feel safe.
"All Saints cannot provide Safe Places in bars and clubs, but we think it would be an excellent idea to put a properly monitored marquee on our plaza outside on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Hopefully, by setting this example, others will see how necessary this is for the protection of vulnerable people and the peace of mind of their families.”
Drunken behaviour in and around pubs, clubs and bars in Northampton on weekends is a significant problem that the town faces.
Many club-goers have found themselves feeling vulnerable when they have been separated from friends, found themselves with no phone battery or suffered an injury.
Last week, the Chron launched a campaign to call on the 14 drinking establishments in the town centre open after 1am to introduce a Safe Place for women to shelter in if they find themselves on the street alone.
Although men can find themselves needing a Safe Place too, we were mindful that putting men and women in the same space could cause problems and that bars and clubs may struggle to monitor separate areas.
However, reaction from readers has made it clear people would like to see Safe Places for men and women, so we are now happy to reflect our readers’ views and call for both.
Social media user, Debbie Galton said: “I think this is a great idea and agree that women need a safe space. Most town centre violence is alcohol fuelled male on male fighting. Yes, men are at risk, but it’s a very different risk to lone women.”
This proposed ‘Safe Place’ hub would be monitored by female and male bouncers, who have the discretion to allow vulnerable people entry.
The marquee will provide a well-lit, warm and surveillanced refuge for people to call a taxi or drink some water.
But this idea isn’t entirely new, Brighton and Hove YMCA DownsLink Group implemented the idea of a ‘Safe Space’ for club-goers ten years ago.
Mark Cull, Head of Young People’s services for YMCA DownsLink Group said: “Safe Space supports vulnerable people in the night time economy of Brighton and Hove.
“Over 700 people a year access the service. The project has run for ten years on Friday and Saturday nights. Safe Space provides medical, emotional and practical support to ensure people get home safely and don’t become victims of crime.
“Safe Space also carries out beach patrols. The service prevents unnecessary demands on Ambulance and Accident and Emergency services through providing first aid intervention on site, making significant savings for the health economy.”
The number of mums, dads, brothers and sisters, nans and grandpas, who this simple measure would give comfort to must number in the thousands.
One user, who has benefitted from the project in Brighton said: “I came into Safe Space very distressed on Saturday night and a lovely member of your team really helped me after I lost all my friends and had no idea where I was.
“I can’t remember her name but I just wanted to say a massive thank you! It’s amazing that there are organisations like this to help vulnerable people out.”
The ‘Safe Space’ in Brighton and Hove is open every Friday and Saturday from 11pm to 3.30am at a central city church in central Brighton and supports residents and tourists of all ages.
British Red Cross volunteers are on hand to offer medical support, and experienced YMCA staff provide emotional and practical support, such as providing hot drinks, phone charging hubs, basic first aid as well as helping to call for a family member or a taxi.
It's evident that this idea has been a success in Brighton and Hove's night time economy, so there is no reason why it cannot work in Northampton.
Providing a 'Safe Place' hub in the town for men and women could give peace of mind to an entire town.