I wanted to gain an understanding of some of the issues that arise in Ipswich town centre in the evening and the challenges our night time economy team face. I figured that a good way to see this was to accompany the Town Pastors on one of their night shifts.
The Town Pastors, for those who don’t know, are a group of Christian volunteers who patrol the streets helping people who have had to much to drink. They give water and help to defuse some situations that could have easily escalated. Their faith is important to them but they are not there to preach but offer support for those in need. They have a great working relationships with the emergency services and door staff and this is built from mutual respect.
As it was the Saturday before Christmas it was expected to be busy and the emergency services were well prepared, with around 30 police officers on town centre duty, also St Johns Ambulance and a SOS bus based at Cardinal Park to give medical treatment.
I went out on patrol with Paul and Julie, both experienced town pastors. In fact Paul was one of the founding members. We were radioed up so we could hear what was happening and communicate any issues we faced. As soon as we stepped out it became apparent what a good relationships the pastors have with some of the regular revellers. A young lady told us how thankful she was for help she received when worse for wear a few weeks ago. She tried to give some money to say thanks but we advised we could not accept but she could donate on line.
The majority of people out where good natured and in good spirit. When they see us they ask for a Freddo bar and engage in some light hearted banter. We did attend some incidents that were not so light hearted; we were came across a young man with a nasty gash across his nose after being head butted, we stayed with him until help arrived. We also witnessed a door man being assaulted; the police arrived and arrested the attacker and we gave statements.
As the night went on we saw another side of the towns night time occupants – some rough sleepers. Paul, though his work with the night shelter, was familiar with a number of the them. We took their details and gave them water. Paul explained to me how the dynamic of some of the homeless in town is changing. It used to be a large number who had chaotic lifestyles with events and issues built up over years leading to homelessness. Now we are seeing people who have had major incidents in relatively quick succession; one gentleman who had lost his job and whose relationship had broke down now found himself homeless.
The evening was an eye opening experience. I have nothing but praise for the Town pastors and the emergency services and the work they do, but also the people of Ipswich on a night out you showed the majority can have a good time, act responsibly and have an amazing sense of humour.
This post was written by Cllr Glen Chisholm, a Labour councillor in Stoke Park Ward. He spent the evening of Saturday 22nd December with the Ipswich Town Pastors, one of the busiest nights this year.