“lt’s an exciting time and a little bit scary”
Volunteer churchgoers will start patrolling the town’s streets next week in a bid to help people in distress or worse for wear through drink. The street pastors are set to be officially commissioned at a ceremony in Herne Bay tomorrow night (Friday). Plans to bring the caring clergy to the town centre were first announced in December, and since January, volunteers have been in training. Churches across the town have worked together to offer the support to people in distress or in need of help during weekend nights. One of the organisers, Rev Anthony Everett, from Christ Church, said 24 volunteers from across the town’s churches have completed the training. He said:
“They have given up 12 Saturdays to the training to learn about Herne Bay, youth culture, their roles and their responsibilities. It’s an exciting time and a littlebitscary,asonlyonehas ever done this before. They will be doing things like clearing up smashed glass, looking after vulnerable people and ensuring people’s safety in the town centre. We are all Christians interested in the health of the whole community. We believe that God has a love of the whole person, so that means we care about people who are going out to have fun. Churches have increasingly been involved in social action in Herne Bay. We set up the foodbank project, and this is the next thing as part of that. We hope it will have a positive influence on the commumty.”
The idea was first introduced in London eight years ago and has since spread to hundreds of towns and cities around the world, and has been hailed for helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. In Herne Bay, it has been supported by Canterbury City Council’s Community Safety Unit, whose head Graham Simpson helped organise meetings with the various churches at the beginning of the year. He said:
“Obviously street pastors hive experience already working in Whitstable and Canterbury city centre. The success of those schemes meant we were supportive of the scheme coming to Herne Bay. It will have fully trained people being the eyes and ears on the ground, there to support vulnerable people who may have had a bit too much to drink. They will carry bottles of water, flip flops, and those sort of things to help people get home safely and not get into danger. It then feeds back into the multi-agency approach to police the night-time economy, so that we know the locations where there have been problems and we can try to solve them.”
The service will be attended by Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale and the Bishop of Dover, and will be held at Christ Church, William Street, tomorrow at 7pm.
Herne Bay Gazette, July 3rd 2014