Are you aware that Preston is the only city in Lancashire to have been awarded a Purple Flag for being both a vibrant, and safe, place for a night out? It’s something the city is very proud of, and many organisations have helped bring this about.
One of the teams you may see at the weekend in Preston is a Street Pastors’ patrol. They walk around the city centre (and other areas such as St Matthew’s and New Hall Lane) offering help or a friendly ear to anyone who may need it. They’re always happy to talk to those who might feel lonely or who need help with emotional problems & they’re especially vigilant for anybody who appears vulnerable late at night. First-aid trained, these local superstars can also signpost people to agencies who may be able to offer more long-term assistance.
The Street Pastors carry backpacks filled with useful items to help those who might not be having the best of times. Their equipment includes bottles of water to help people who might need rehydrating, flip-flops for those whose shoes aren’t as comfortable as they thought they were when they set out for the night, space blankets [the sort you see at the end of Marathon races] for individuals who are cold and/or homeless. They can also provide hot drinks, particularly for those sleeping rough.
So, who are these people and why do they do it?
Although all Street Pastors are committed Christians, they are not trying to preach to people – rather they describe themselves as ‘The Church on the street’. They see their calling to go about, as they believe Jesus did, helping people & offering comfort & friendship. Each new recruit has to undertake a comprehensive training programme which covers areas such as mental health, drugs, youth culture and practical safety. They receive no pay, and actually financially contribute towards the cost of their training & uniforms.
Last year Preston Street Pastors received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – “in recognition of the care and compassion they show to the people they meet on the streets”
So next time you’re out in Preston at the weekend, look out for the people with big blue coats which have ‘Street Pastor’ emblazoned on them. You never know when you might be glad of a helping hand – or a pair of flip flops.
For more information, go to streetpastors.org/locations/preston/