They have walked 250,000 miles since they started out and have dedicated around 9,000 hours a year to keeping people safe on the streets of Bradford.
Every weekend, throughout the year, the city’s Street Angels pound the pavements offering support to those in need.
For those who have benefited – the young woman steered away from danger when the Street Angels discovered her being enticed into a car after a night out, and the elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease who had lost his way – they are a Godsend.
This month, as the festive spirit flows during the countdown to Christmas and revellers spill out from city pubs, the volunteer Street Angels are facing their busiest time of year.
Inebriation can cause revellers to become disorientated and vulnerable, and for many people Christmas can be a particularly stressful or lonely time, leaving them in need of support. The Street Angels, wearing reflective bands to identify them, don’t intervene in disputes but they, along with the Samaritans, who have recently teamed up with the Street Angels on patrols, can provide a supporting role.
Louise Foster, from Bradford, joined the Street Angels in 2007. “I heard about it in Halifax and thought if it ever came to Bradford it would be a good thing to do,” she says. “At the time I had children at university and thought if there were people like the Street Angels it would give you some reassurance.”
Louise finds it rewarding to be there for people who may be vulnerable and could potentially become a victim. She says the Street Angels also help to make the city a safer place.
For Bridget Stones, becoming a Street Angel was a natural progression having worked in a caring career. The former nurse joined the team three years ago. “I just felt that if my life had taken a different turn that could have been me, and I’m sure my parents would have wanted somebody to look after me.
“I also wanted to do something to show people that they are worthy. They may have lost their home, they may be a little bit drunk, but they are still worthy of being spoken to,” says Bridget, referring to some of the people, including the homeless and those with addictions, the Street Angels support on the streets.
Jamie Boyle, 34, has undertaken more than 40 patrols within a year. “I got involved because there are so many negatives about Bradford and I really wanted to give something back to my city,” he says.
Jamie was on duty the night he and his fellow Street Angels were able to look after a young woman who was inebriated and suffered a fit. They took her back to their base where they cared for her and ensured she got home safely.
“I feel it is like a personal achievement. I have done something for my city to make it a better and safer place and we have saved lives,” adds Jamie.
Street Angels began in Halifax in 2005. Impressed by what they saw after visiting the project, the founders of the Bradford scheme realised the benefits it could bring to their city.
“I was getting fed up of people complaining about Bradford. I am a Bradfordian and I am very proud of the city. It has had its challenges over the years but rather than complain about it, do something about it. I looked at this and thought it was something we could do,” says John Dinsdale, the scheme’s co-founder and chair of trustees.
The West Yorkshire Police initiative Operation Northdale - tackling sex crime in the city - is one of the projects the Street Angels are involved with, helping to hand out anti-drink spiking devices.
They are also a supporting role in the city’s Student Safe Spots, set up three years ago by Bradford College and Bradford University.
John explains that if someone feels in a vulnerable situation they can go into premises designated as ‘safe spots’ such as the Alhambra theatre and St George’s Hall.
Originally based at the Delius Centre on Great Horton Road, the Street Angels have since moved to a central location within City Hall.
Their services have expanded, with the launch of a Street Angels team in Wibsey a year ago.
Local volunteer Andrew Pinfield has been instrumental in running the service in the village. “It’s keeping people safe on the streets,” he says.
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