Vital group in ensuring the safety of Northampton’s night-time economy says it feels ‘incredible’ to celebrate 15 years
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A vital group in ensuring the safety of Northampton’s night-time economy says it feels “incredible” to celebrate its 15 year anniversary.
The Northampton Street Pastors have spent a decade-and-a-half looking out for individuals enjoying what the town centre has to offer in the evenings, particularly at the weekend.
Their work, alongside the Northampton Guardians, ensures people are safe. They hand out water, blankets and flip flops if needed, while also keeping individuals company, getting them into taxis, and enabling them to phone friends or family if they require support.
It is the work of the Street Pastors that has contributed to Northampton obtaining the prestigious Purple Flag status – awarded to places that offer a safe and welcoming environment, combined with a diverse mix of dining and entertainment, between 5pm and 5am.
Keith Holland-Delamere is the coordinator of the Northampton Street Pastors and has volunteered for the service for the past 13 years.
He described the Street Pastors as offering “extra pairs of eyes” and “extra capacity to make it a better and safer night out”.
“I’ve been involved for 13 years and it’s flown by,” said Keith. “15 years is a really good achievement and we’re among the second or third wave nationally. It’s brilliant to look back on how we’ve made a difference.”
The main way the Street Pastors and the Guardians collaborate is through the Safer Nights Out (SNO) van, located at the heart of the town centre.
While the Street Pastors may provide a listening ear and pastoral support, they can take individuals requiring first aid and safeguarding over to the SNO van.
Between 15 and 20 individuals currently volunteer for the Street Pastors, but up to around 100 have been part of the group’s vital work over the past 15 years.
One of those is Sarah Williams, a Street Pastor trustee and the longest serving volunteer in the town. Sarah’s first patrol was in October 2008, before becoming a trustee four-to-five years ago.
When asked why she felt it was important to get involved, she said: “I love the community and helping people. I felt it was me to do it.”
Sarah says it is difficult to quantify just how much of a difference the group makes, but individuals make it clear that they miss their presence when they are not patrolling.
“It’s good as there’s far more people looking after folk,” Sarah added. “It does have a calming effect and gives reassurance.”
Describing it as “incredible” and “brilliant” that they have reached the 15 year milestone, Sarah also recalled the time when one of the founding members told her they were “in it for the long haul” when the group was established in 2008.
Having worked with many of the 100 volunteers over the years, Sarah said: “It’s great. People come from very different backgrounds, walks and churches, all with the same purpose.”
As a faith-based organisation, volunteers have to belong to a church if they want to get involved. They undergo a training programme of the role and responsibilities, as well as a DBS check before getting started.