Source (with images)
It's 3am on the cold streets of Oldham, people are in crisis and there's nowhere for them to go
In the second part of our series chronicling life in austerity hit Oldham, Politics and Investigations Editor Jen Williams spends the evening with the volunteers of the Street Angels project - and finds kindness, sadness and a ravaged safety net
It is past midnight in Oldham town centre, Saturday night bleeding into Sunday as drinkers noisily drift from pub to club.
Tucked just off the main drag, Rev Jean Hurlston and her tight-knit group of volunteers are sober, in both senses of the word.
Volunteers at her Street Angels project, set up to support public services by helping people who get into difficulties in the town centre at the weekend - either because of minor injuries, fights, homelessness or general drunkenness - are worried.
Their paramedic, Gemma, has just found an elderly homeless man out-of-it on the streets. Jim, not his real name, had popped in earlier on for a brew and some cake, as many of those sleeping rough in the town do, for warmth, sustenance or company. He hadn’t really said much before shuffling back out into the night.
Gemma has now found him barely conscious on the streets and is whispering to Jean in a low, worried voice. I have been here for the last few hours, watching as the team hand out hot drinks and bowls of chilli, taking the various tragic stories they hear in their stride. But now they don’t know what to do.
Jim appears to have fallen over but is suffering from no obvious injuries or mental health crisis. Yet at nearly 70 he is vulnerable, one of the town’s drifting population of street homeless often more associated with Manchester next door.
Gemma manages to get enough information from him to learn that his last house was in Rochdale, so they make an early-hours phone call to Rochdale council. No, they say. He’s not ours. He’s originally from Oldham.
The volunteers then try Oldham council’s out-of-hours service. No, they say. He can come in tomorrow morning, but they have nothing for him right now.
He slumps silently in a chair as everyone wonders aloud what to do next.
Rough sleeping may be a more visible problem in the city centre a few miles away than in its peripheral towns like Oldham, but the gaps in the system are just the same. Although Jean, the Dean of Oldham, set up Street Angels in 2011 as a general support service for Saturday nights, it gradually evolved into a drop-in for the town’s homeless.
I listen as two men, probably not older than 40, share gallows humour over a coffee.
One, who says he became homeless after a relationship breakdown, has been sleeping under a railway arch. When he applied for housing, he received a letter - he says - informing him he was not a priority as his current housing situation ‘is not a threat to his health’.
They laugh darkly.
Volunteer Peter Russell, 26, is all too familiar with the scenario. A few weeks ago he was helped off the streets by the project, ‘the first place I’ve ever asked for help’.
“I think there’s just a break in the system,” he says of the path to destitution. “With zero hour contracts, it’s hard for people to keep their home.
“I was living in my house six years and getting into debt and arrears and becoming homeless, paying them off then going back into them… It was the month’s difference that always set it off, when you lose work and go onto benefits.
“I feel for people in that situation.”
Peter speaks with quiet anger of the spiral he and others have found themselves in. “It’s trying to keep a rhythm, trying to keep things flowing,” he says of juggling rent with wages.
“I’ve worked on the markets, I’ve worked cash in hand doing walls and flagstones, painting, bakeries, I’ve just had to keep a bit of a flow up.”
Sometimes, though, that just gets too much, he says.
“I’ve had it a few times over the years since I was 16.
“You’d have work, then everything has come to a crash, work, family, health, one after the other. I don’t have much family and I definitely don’t choose to ask for help.”
Eventually he landed up on the streets. Even then, he was working, but in the end it was unsustainable.
“While I was homeless, I still had my job over at JD.
“I was still doing my 12-hour shifts. I struggled to sleep through the day and also do my work. I didn’t really have a great Christmas with the weather. It became harder to hide it for work. Luckily they had showers there but people were realising I was staying back to have a shower when everyone else was rushing off. It became noticeable.”
Now in temporary accommodation, he says he wants to give back by helping out at Street Angels. Jean says the project has ended up being focused more and more on destitution, although Gemma - who is funded by the NHS - also takes a huge weight off emergency services by patching up revellers and keeping them out of A&E.
“The biggest thing is the rough sleeping and homelessness,” she says, adding that Universal Credit and other benefits issues are a common cause.
“That’s why we started to say: how can we respond in more of a strategic and meaningful way - and that’s when we set up the drop-in.
“We were going round the town and bumping into people who were begging and we’d say ‘do you want us to bring hot drinks’? And we’d go back and find they’d moved on.
“We decided to go out and invite people to come in so they can have a hot meal, clothing, conversation.
“The first thing you do is welcome them. It doesn’t matter what they came in for. Often you find out why and people sort of open up as they get to know us.”
While she admits the charity is undoubtedly plugging gaps in the system, she does not see that as a negative thing.
“There are people who will say we shouldn’t be doing it, we’re propping up failing services,” she says.
“But actually I think we should be doing it, because we should practice what we preach. It’s about linking with the civic community, local voluntary sector, faith being real.
“What do you do for the town? It’s more than the service. It’s about looking inwards, it’s about looking outwards.”
At about 2am a young man comes in while the team is still wondering what to do about Jim.
He asks for a sleeping bag but they’ve run out, so he takes a Soreen bar, one of many regular donations from Chadderton FC.
They offer him a duvet, but he shakes his head.
“Nah,” he says quietly. “The wind just rips through it.”
At nearly 3am, the team comes to a decision. There is nowhere for Jim to go apart from A&E, despite there being nothing really wrong with him. They know that once the hospital realises this, they will almost certainly discharge him - but at least he will be safe and warm for a few hours.
He doesn’t have any money or a mobile, so they write him a note with the number for Oldham’s housing team and slip it into his pocket with £2.50 for the following morning, before preparing to order a taxi.
“Look at that face, how much character there is in it,” says Jean, quietly, as the team sit and look at him. “A life well lived.”
As I leave, they are waiting for the cab. I walk out into the dark 3am air and drive back to Manchester, feeling guilty, hollow and lucky all at once.
Since this article was researched in April, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has agreed to extend its night shelter scheme - 'A Bed Every Night' - throughout the rest of this year, including in Oldham.
For more about Oldham's Street Angels, see here .
Festival Angels were at Kendal Calling in the Lake District helping run safe hubs and detached teams in various camp sites. The amazing team went above and beyond to offer care and support to some of the 35,000 festival goers and staff. The weather turned wet on Saturday resulting in mud but dried up for Sunday which included a flypast from the 'Jesus Calls Will U Follow' banner plane. It is hoped to build on the work at Kendal Calling over the next years.
The Kendal Calling Festival Angels have featured in the Church in Cumbria The Way magazine - www.carlislediocese.org.uk/uploads/2814/the-way-summer-2019.pdf.html
It's in a bid to keep revellers safe through the summer months.
Cumbria Police have launched a campaign that will run over the summer focusing on providing safety advice.
The campaign will run until the end of August and will cover a wide range of areas of personal safety.
As the summer holidays fast approach and social calendars fill up, police want to encourage the public to take simple steps to enjoy a safe summer.
The Constabulary's social media platforms will publish videos offering practical safety advice. Also highlighted will be how police work with partner agencies and valuable schemes, such as Ask for Angela and Street Angels, to help keep people safe.
The Constabulary will also want to hear views and ideas from the public around how to keep safe when on a night out or at festivals. Social media polls will run over the next two months to gain this insight.
Ahead of the county's biggest music festival, Kendal Calling, a Geofilter will be available to revellers. Further festival-specific advice will be issued in the build-up and during the event.
The campaign will also include a free prize draw, ran on the Cumbria Police Facebook account, focused on public safety advice.
Superintendent Justin Bibby said:
"Cumbria is one of the safest places in the UK to live and visit which is something we are very proud of. Running campaigns like this are so important to raise awareness and spark conversations.
"Personal safety is vital and should be a natural consideration as part of any plan. Small steps can make a big difference. Some of the advice we provide might seem like common sense, but it can be easy to forget something important when you're having a great time.
"This is advice and not a guarantee, but making sure you make yourself as safe as you can with little effort will mean you are not as vulnerable. Share these measures with your friends and family, look out for each other and talk about personal safety and your plans."
Whether it is online, at an event like an agricultural show or festival, out on nights out or on a date, there are steps everyone can take to improve their personal safety. They include:
· Plan your day/night out including how to get home
· If you are meeting someone for the first time, please make sure it is in a public place. Always have an exit strategy to get out of a situation if you are uncomfortable (consider checking if a pub/bar has the Ask for Angela scheme before arranging where to meet someone for the first time)
· If you are out alone, tell friends and family where you will be and update them if your plans change
· Make sure you stay with your friends. If you become separated, pre-arrange a meeting place at the end of the night - look out for each other
· Take your mobile phone with you and make sure it is charged
· Be sensible about how much alcohol you drink and pace yourself - a drunk person is much more vulnerable and a far easier target for criminals
· Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, hot temperatures and alcohol can leave you dehydrated and requiring medical attention
· Watch your drinks - do not give anyone the opportunity to alter them with other substances. If you leave a drink unattended then do not go back to it
· Think about what you have had to drink - If you feel very drunk or unwell after just a small amount then ask a trusted friend or a member of the club / pub management for help
· Do not take drugs or New Psychoactive Substances
· Make sure you have enough money left at the end of the night to pay for your journey home
· Only take the personal items with you that you need, and keep valuables out of site
· Never engage in violence, one punch can kill. If a situation starts to escalate walk away, find a staff member for support or contact the police.
Those working in the night time economy contribute to a fun, lively environment, and no two nights in their town or city are ever the same. Along with this, however, those on the frontline also regularly have to deal with situations involving vulnerable people. From alcohol-related illness to safety concerns, staff in licensed premises need to have their eye on the ball at all times.
To help you provide a safe drinking environment for all, Jo Cox-Brown, Director of Night Time Economy Solutions provides her top tips on dealing with vulnerable people.
Safely tackling vulnerabilities
At Night Time Economy Solutions we work regularly with licensed premises and the emergency services to improve safety and help create an environment that’s social and enjoyable for all. Below we’ve listed the vulnerability issues licensed premises deal with most often, together with effective ways to handle them.
1) Drunk people trying to enter your venue
All staff should recognise signs of drunk behaviour, so ensure training is given to anyone needing it. A drunk person should never be allowed entry to your premises, not only because serving them is illegal and could you land you a fine of up to £20,000, but because it’s irresponsible and unsafe.
Instead, offer to call them a taxi or ask if a friend can bring them home. Letting them wait while their transport arrives and providing water and some simple food will help them sober up and this show of kindness can also help relieve their embarrassment over being refused entry. Remain friendly and calm at all times, explaining the risk of a fine or venue closure if you were to grant access.
2) Vulnerable people leaving your premises
If there is a lone person leaving your venue, check in with them by asking how they are, where their friends are and how they’re getting home. This can be enough to tell you whether or not they need additional help and if they are safe on their own. If they do need help, talk to them to create a safe plan to get home, partnering with other agencies if needed such as a licensed taxi company.
If you see someone leaving your venue with a different person than they came in with, approach them and ask if they are ok. Don’t be afraid to check if they know the person they are leaving with and if their friends know where they are going. Look out for signs of intoxication or date rape drugs and assess their ability to hold a conversation. If you discover they don’t know the person or suspect they’ve been spiked, engage them in a separate conversation and clearly state you’ll remain with them until they’re reunited with their friends. If the situation escalates, contact the police.
3) Lost or stolen property
Losing personal items, particularly a wallet or house keys can be very distressing. Help the person remain calm as they search for their belongings. Escort them around the venue if necessary, and if they can’t locate their things, support them to get home safely by offering them use of a phone or engaging a voluntary group such as Street Angels to help them. Don’t let them wander off alone without a phone or money for transport.
4) Anger or aggression
If a customer becomes angry, for whatever reason, display non-threatening body language such as having your hands loosely by your side with palms forward, stand back to give the customer space and use a calm voice to try and deescalate the situation. Don’t attempt to manage it alone, and always keep your safety and the safety of other-staff paramount. In some instances, it may help if a staff member who would be considered unthreatening offers an incentive to leave, such as a free drink next time the customer comes in.
In any instance of aggression, always utilise services available to you like the police or appropriate volunteers, who can support with looking after the customer until he or she is calm and sober.
5) Distress, illness or upset
Our instincts when faced with sickness or upset are often to either turn away or rush straight in. However, it’s best to step back and assess first, and always ask the person’s permission before doing anything – whether that’s collecting their things or holding their hair as they vomit.
Letting them leave the premises alone will make them vulnerable to predators, so try and establish who the best person is to care for them – whether that’s their friends within your venue or a voluntary service like Street Angels.
In the case of severe illness or unconsciousness, call an ambulance immediately and stay with the person at all times. If they are conscious, encourage them to sit up and give them something suitable to vomit in if needed. If they are unconscious, put them in the recovery position and monitor their breathing and body temperature. Talk to the person but never try to force them into consciousness by pouring cold water over them as the shock and sudden temperature change can be very dangerous.
Also ensure all staff members understand signs of alcohol poisoning, which are:
● Hyperthermia or low body temperature
● Being conscious but unresponsive
● Irregular breathing
● Poor coordination
● Fainting or passing out
If you suspect alcohol poisoning or are concerned about symptoms someone is displaying, always dial 999.
As well as following the above five points for safe drinking practice, it’s also essential to keep in mind the following when involved in a situation:
Protect your own safety
Work alongside another staff member to help a customer, as alone you are vulnerable too. Always keep firm boundaries in place and never offer lifts home or do anything that could put your own safety at risk.
Intoxicated people can be volatile, have lowered inhibitions and can have hazy memories the next day, all of which can put you at risk of danger or accusation.
Make use of CCTV and radio communications.
By communicating with other venues, you can arrange joint monitoring of lone, vulnerable or aggressive people to improve their safety and that of others. We recently asked CCTV to monitor a lone woman from a venue back to her hotel, which is something that can be easily arranged thanks to most town and city centres having excellent CCTV networks.
Work with other agencies
It’s your responsibility to ensure any vulnerable patrons leave your venue safely, and there are other agencies who can support you.
● Creating a link with a local taxi company who are happy to pick up those at risk of being vulnerable.
● Connecting with volunteer organisations such as Street Pastors and Street Angels. They can offer invaluable help to those who find themselves vulnerable in the night time economy. Groups like these can support people in various ways as they exit your venue into the city at large.
● If someone genuinely can’t get home and there are no volunteers available, work with your local policing team to see if they can help, even by letting the person spend a few hours waiting at the local station’s front counter until they can be picked up or make their way home safely.
Working with other agencies can remove some of the worry of dealing with vulnerable people, as well as helping your whole town or city’s night time economy be as safe, fun and prosperous as possible.
Make it official
It’s important that all staff feel confident in practically dealing with vulnerability, as scenarios covered in this guide are liable to crop up regularly. However, practical knowledge must be accompanied by an airtight Vulnerable Persons Policy, together with staff training. We’ll cover how to create and implement this in our next article!
If you have any questions relating to your licensed premises, you can contact Jo or Sylvia at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to support.
A big thanks to Police Sergeant Mike Urwin and Paul Blakey from Street Angels (CNI) for sharing their tips and recommendations for supporting vulnerable people in the night time economy.
#FaithAndPoliceTogether Conference – update by Project Lead – Marie Reavey:
19th June saw the #FaithAndPoliceTogether conference take place at the College of Policing. The day was a great success and challenged delegates to consider how they engage with their local faith communities. 91 delegates attended from across the country with a wide range of ranks and roles within policing represented. The aim of the day was to encourage police to routinely engage with the faith communities, not just when emergency disaster relief situations occur; and to help broaden thinking about the potential for faith communities to contribute towards social cohesion. The conference Highlighted the power and potential social capital within Faith communities in helping to reduce policing demand through prevention, intervention and problem solving.
The conference was opened by CPA President Deputy Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Paul Netherton, who urged everyone not to be afraid of political correctness and to seek out faith communities to help policing priorities. Paul also reminded delegates about the power of a cup of tea and a biscuit! Paul was followed by DCC Nav Malik who shared his experiences as a Muslim officer and encouraged those of faith to go to their places of worship in uniform. He also reminded us of the opportunities for engagement and how this helps to build legitimacy. Some of the challenges, including intrafaith division were also discussed.
We had some inspirational speakers giving a flavour of some of what our faith communities can do to assist the police. Debra Green OBE from Redeeming Our Communities talked about the impact of mentoring, youth clubs, and befriending schemes, Rev Clyde Thomas shared his story of how the church had supported him when he came out of prison and had nowhere else to go and helped him from a life of homelessness, addiction and crime to Director of Hope Centre Ministries UK and senior pastor at Victory Church, Cwmbran who run a Hope Centre and Phase 3 Supported housing and are one of many faith based organisations tackling addiction. He reminded us all that there is hope for everyone and that we must never underestimate the power of story.
Ben Lindsay founder of Power the Fight, a charity that is equipping and empowering communities to tackle Serious Youth Violence, talked about some of the positive and significant ways our faith communities can make a real difference in tacking serious youth violence in our nation. Melissa Llewellyn and Rehana Faisal from Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FACES) gave an insight in how Muslim and Christian leaders in Luton have come together to equip faith communities across the country to tackle CSE.
Delegates were asked to utilise their faith based staff support networks to help engage their faith communities but not to rely on them to be the only contact. Everyone was urged to attend a prayer meeting if invited and to build effective relationships.
#FaithAndPoliceTogether will work if each person who attended the conference takes it back to their local Force area and looks to implement it. We are really hoping and praying that this does happen.
CNI Network's July Newsletter:
Night out with City of Hull Street Angels in Hull Daily Mail - click here
Angels who are taking to the streets of Newquay to keep party-goers safe, Pirans Angels will be taking to the streets to help the drunk and vulnerable from Friday
A team of volunteers who will be taking to the streets of Newquay to help drunk and vulnerable people will free up valuable police resources to tackle major crime.
Wednesday (June 12) saw the launch event of Pirans Angels, a group who will meet with people on the streets, at festivals, on beaches or at recreational areas offering help and assistance where they can.
Pirans Angels are birthed out of the Newquay Street Pastors who wound down in February this year and will be armed with flip-flops, space blankets, basic first aid, bottles of water and lollipops to help keep party-goers safe.
Pirans Angels held a ‘soft launch’ at Tunes in the Dunes and will be out and about on the streets of Newquay from Friday (June 14).
Founder Debbie Anderson-Jones said: “The street pastors were part of a national initiative whereas we are more local. Our t-shirts and literature are all printed in Newquay.
“Our team were all street pastors and we are an independent body and here to serve the community.”
Attending the launch event at New Creation Church was police inspector Dave Meredith who said that organisations such as Pirans Angels provide vital assistance for the police.
He said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder, we support them and they support us and we work for the common good of looking after vulnerable people.
“It’s great for us and the volunteers work as a support service. If they are on hand to look after a person who is drunk and unconscious it frees up police resources to deal with other ongoing demands such as assaults and drink drivers.”
Although Pirans Angels have volunteers from a number of different churches around the Newquay area, Debbie and her team are keen to stress that they are always on the lookout for new volunteers, whether religious people or not.
Pirans Angels currently has 10 volunteers but anybody aged over 18 who wants to get involved can contact Debbie on 07486563420.
Also involved is Debbie’s husband Simon.
He said: “Some people come here and get so drunk and we don’t want them to become a statistic. We don’t judge people and are there to help people, both tourists and locals, to get home or to their hotel safe.
“We’re in the heart of the community and aren’t here to criticise anyone, only help.”
Pirans Angels are also on Facebook and Twitter.
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