OMAGH ‘Street Angels’ took to the streets for the first time on Saturday night to come to the assistance of late night revellers in the town.
The project was first muted at the beginning of the year following the death of Monaghan teenager Jason McGovern and ignited further by the death of local man Darren McBrearty.
In fact many of Darren’s family and friends are part of the 25 strong team of volunteers who have signed up to bring assistance and shelter to those enjoying night-time entertainment in Omagh at weekends.
On Saturday volunteer ‘Street Angels’ were on hand to help the hundreds of young people enjoying a night out in the town. Their duties ranged from sharing cups of tea with revellers, finding taxis for people and even handing out flip-flops to barefoot females. The initiative is run by the Police Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) in Omagh.
Vice chair of Omagh District Council, Cllr Sorcha McAnespy has been involved with the project from the outset.
She said, “We have all been very keen to get it off the ground and have been working tirelessly to make it a reality. Projects like this don’t happen overnight, and a lot of planning, recruiting and training has been undertaken, as well as applications for funding. We currently have 25 or so volunteers and are keen to recruit more to help spread out the rota, as we are aware that it is a big commitment to ask people to give their weekend nights up.”
Cllr McAnespy herself was out on the streets of Omagh on Saturday night from 11pm-3am volunteering as a ‘Street Angel’ which is the unofficial name of the group.
She explained the volunteers received very positive feedback from the hundreds of people from throughout Ireland who they encountered on the street in Omagh.
“It was a cold, wet blustery night however the passion and enthusiasm demonstrated by the volunteers was contagious and we all came away having enjoyed the experience immensely,” said Cllr McAnespy.
“I am also confident that we offered a positive experience to the hundreds of people that we engaged with. We were talking to people from Donegal, Antrim, Armagh, Down and as far away as Galway. Some had come into town on buses others were on hen and stag parties.
“We gave out tea, coffee, water, offered shelter and warmth to people, found people taxis, directed people who had got disorientated to their buses, gave out numerous barefoot girls flip flops, reunited groups who had become separated, offered a haven to people who had become isolated from their friends. We assisted young and old, males and females, and people from all sections of society, I think that we benefited also from meeting all these different people as they dispelled the myths and prejudices that may have been built up around the night time economy. Everyone was in great spirits and very grateful and thankful for the assistance they were given in a totally non judgmental way.”
Cllr McAnespy thanked everyone who has signed up to this initiative, stating they are all passionate about this cause and she said it showed on Saturday evening.
She added, “Everyone had their own reasons for signing up and they are a credit to their families. I am extremely proud that we have so many selfless people willing to give up their free time for the benefit of others and to complement the vibrant night time economy that we have here in Omagh that employs huge numbers of people.
“However the PCSP can not work alone and I am delighted to say that we have the full support of the licensees, the fast food outlet operators and the taxi and bus companies. It is imperative that we all work together here in Omagh to positively promote our town as the vibrant, friendly place that it is.”