CHRISTMAS SPIRITS: Meet the ‘Street Angels’, the men and women patrolling party hotspots this Christmas to save drunken revellers from themselvesVolunteers don hi-vis yellow jackets and take to the streets to make sure intoxicated partygoers can sober up and get home safely.
IT is Friday night, just days before Christmas. David Bowker, 59, a retired NHS nurse, Michelle Sharples, 38, an NHS health visitor, Stephanie Ford, 56, an accountant and Adam Westall, 36, a PhD student, are donning their hi-vis yellow jackets. Tonight, the foursome make up Manchester’s Street Angels.
Every week they volunteer to look after the drunken masses who end up vulnerable on the streets of the UK’s third biggest city.
In November, a Facebook post went viral garnering 2,540 shares and 3,600 comments after a girl called Emily was abandoned by her friends when drunk.
The Guardians who found Emily were ignored by her friends they called and texted — despite begging them to help Emily get home for more than two hours.
For the Manchester team, sadly, Emily’s story is far from unusual.
Mum-of-three Steph said: “Generally, when we find people too drunk to remember where they live, we use their mobile to contact their friends or parents. “The blokes always come and rescue their mate but girls often ditch them. They tell us they’re on their way then switch their mobiles off.”
Alcohol consumption in Britain increases by 40 per cent in December. More than 600million units are consumed in the weeks before Christmas — that’s 300million pints, or 428million vodkas.
After a hot cup of tea, the angels head out to the police briefing where the night begins . . .
21:45 Police briefing where four people of note are identified as having breached anti- social behaviour orders. Known drug dealers are also believed to be operating in the city centre tonight.
22:15 Back at the donated HQ of the angels, Dave is put on radio duty where he will be able to contact the police if needed. Taxi marshals and doormen are also looped in to the radio group so the entire city can communicate.
23:00 The Angels set out on their first patrol of the evening. Within minutes the team have picked up more than 20 empty bottles and glasses, removing potential weapons.
23:12 Stopped in the street by “Sarah”, who says the angels saved her two weeks ago when she had too much to drink.
She reminds them they sobered her up with water and helped her get a taxi home when she felt better. She tells them the work they’re doing is really important and asks how she can donate to the charity.
23:34 A stag-do group ask the angels where the best strip joint in town is.
00:03 The angels check on a man leaning against a lamppost, urinating. He’s swaying but swears he’s OK and is off back to find his friends. The angels watch him enter a bar.
00:30 A man appearing to be in his 40s is standing alone. He says he’s been drinking since lunchtime and is waiting for a cab. After ten minutes he says he can’t remember if he actually called a cab. The angels keep him lucid, call another one, help him remember his address and leave when he’s in the car heading home to Rochdale.
01:06 The angels find a man in his sixties, lying on the floor with a head injury. “Donald” says he was on a work Christmas do and got separated from his colleagues. He fell up the kerb and while clearly intoxicated he’s embarrassed and thanks the angels. They call an ambulance and Donald is taken to hospital with a head wound.
01:15 After a first patrol which saw a total of more than 50 bottles and glasses binned, the angels head back to HQ for a cuppa and a biscuit before going back out on their second patrol.
01:30 The angels see an argument between a man and a woman. He seems increasingly aggressive but when the angels intervene both people assure them there’s nothing going on and that they’re a couple about to get a taxi home.
01:45 The angels see a young girl in her early 20s sitting crying at the roadside. “Lisa” says she’s been out with friends but has lost her mobile phone and has no way of contacting them. The angels suggest she gets a taxi home and while she doesn’t appear too intoxicated, she says she’s going to retrace her steps for the evening and see if she can find her phone.
01:52 The angels find a female in the street being physically sick. Steph pulls her hair back into a ponytail having noticed she’s been sick on her hairpiece which has come out. They wait for her vomiting to subside before giving her water and helping her get a cab.
02:10 The Angels see a young, drunk woman about to get in a car with four men. The angels intervene and ask how the five know one another. The woman, “Anna”, says they offered her a lift home. The angels suggest she stay with them until they can get her a licensed taxi.
02:20 Having seen Anna safely on her way home, the angels call it a night. They work closely with the police and on their suggestion they generally wind up their Friday patrols at 2am as violent incidents increase after that time and they would not be safe.
— To donate to Manchester Street Angels or for information on volunteering, go to manchesterstreetangels.com