Having had a cup of something warm and a slice of cake, plus the all important catch up it is time to begin. As always the weekly briefing is first, presented by our coordinator and then after a few updates on go the blue jackets, emblazoned with our name that we trust will keep the cold at bay during the late hours. The kit bags are next and once checked and we are satisfied that we have all we need our team of four are ready to leave, to say farewell to the cosy Baptist Church, until we return for a break.
A quick rattle of the key inside the lock and with a timely snap it catches and we are off to embark upon six hours of the unknown, of a shift that will offer the fun and the serious with just a spattering of the silly. Because, as any Street Angel will tell you, no one night on patrol in a busy town is ever quite the same as the next.
Our first mission is to walk the lanes and streets and engage with our homeless men and women to whom we offer soup and rolls and much needed conversation. Most we know but to those we don’t we will signpost to the local project who will offer further support. As always they are grateful for what we can do and tonight welcome the warmth of the soup on what is a cold autumn evening. With a ‘thank you’ and a smile we leave them and offer reassurance that we will return, as we do every week.
And so we venture onwards followed by the tune of a busker’s harmonica as it dances on the cool air behind us. Into the night and the bright town centre we walk, flanked by castle walls and ancient buildings while under the watchful gaze of our friends in CCTV.
What will come during the course of our shift will vary from assisting a woman having a panic attack, to reuniting several people with their cars, from dressing a cut hand to having a request for a selfie from a Hen party. We will come to the aid of the police to help a man who is ill and we will assist many folk to get home safely as well as removing broken glass from the streets.
We will walk the parks and the train stations, the river banks and bridges. We will pass the clubs and pubs and the theatre as it empties, greeting all we meet and all the while looking out for those we can help.
Then after a break we will enter the busier period of the night, as the clubs begin to close, when many a flip flop is given out to those struggling to walk in heels and when our lollies are greeted with grand applause by those with a sweet tooth.
And yes, in case you are wondering, we are still smiling despite the hour.
Because being a Street Angel is a role like no other. One that instils a sense of self worth and community spirit and demonstrates what teamwork and passion can achieve. For we offer the shoulders to cry upon and the hands that help the weary to their feet. We are the ones that walk the streets until the birds begin their chorus and night gives way to day, watching and caring for those who need it most.
And it is then as the town turns quiet and the streets become bare that our time is done. When the bags and jackets go back on their hangers and the radios switch to ‘off’. When one last coffee is drank and we say our farewells. Until next week.
We can’t wait.