A POPULAR kind-hearted volunteers group are receiving praise from women they are helping on trams in their latest project.
In November, Oldham Street Angels teamed up with the council to launch its Trusted People scheme to help make women feel safer on the Metrolink network.
Volunteers from the Angels and officers from the council's youth service visit tram stops in the borough and offer help to anyone, especially if they are feeling uneasy amid the dark winter evenings.
One occasion where a woman might feel uncomfortable is when a man has approached to talk but she does not want to engage in a conversation with him.
The Home Office-funded project has been warmly welcomed by those who have been helped by the team members, who wear bright orange jackets and have the Angels wing logo on with the message "We're there because we care".
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, The Reverend Canon Jean Hurlston, who founded the Angels, said the scheme gives a "reassuring presence" to women and girls who may be getting a tram after going to college or work.
Older women, some who feel anxious about using the network, have also welcomed the project.
She said: "We're not the police, we're just people from the community.
"We stand beside people on the tram stop and keep them company.
"More than once we've seen a young woman whose approached by a fellow and we move across just to see how they are.
"A couple of times someone has said 'I'm so glad you was there, he was a creep'.
The Angels are also mindful of not interfering in certain instances in case they prevent the beginning of a romantic relationship.
The scheme comes after the organisation celebrated 10 years of supporting people in Oldham, such as helping to make sure people get home after a night out or providing assistance to rough sleepers.
Reverend Canon Hurlston added: "People often think if it's volunteers that are organising key services, then they don't really have sustainability.
Oldham Council’s Leader has paid tribute to the great work a local charity does after spending an evening volunteering with the organisation.
Last weekend Councillor Arooj Shah joined members of Oldham Street Angels to see first-hand what they do to make sure people in the town centre are safe.
A typical night for the volunteers may include giving brews to those who need to sober-up, making sure people get a taxi home safely, collecting empty bottles so no one gets injured, through to providing clothes for rough sleepers or simply just spending time talking to people.
Cllr Shah promised to go out on patrol with the Street Angels when she helped launched the Trusted People scheme, last month. The initiative – part of the Greater Manchester-wide Safer Streets campaign – sees the Angels and officers from Oldham Youth Service visiting tram stops to offer a friendly face and reassurance to people of all ages, especially if they are feeling uneasy as the winter nights draw in.
Cllr Shah, said: “It was humbling to go out and see the great work the Street Angels do every weekend.
“The volunteers are people from all walks of life who are prepared to give up their own time to help others, including some of the most vulnerable members of society. They go out in all weathers, throughout the year - they’re a credit to the borough and we are lucky to have them.
“One of the things that was nice to see was the reaction from members of the public to the Angels. People really appreciate them.
“On behalf of the borough I’d like to thank the Reverend Canon Jean Hurlston and all her team for the great work they do.”
The Reverend Canon Jean Hurlston, who founded Oldham Street Angels, said: “We were delighted to welcome Cllr Shah to see our organisation on Saturday night.
“Not only did she stay much longer than planned, she also put on the famous orange jacket and assisted with serving drinks and sorting warm clothes for distribution.”
The Oldham Street Angels were formed 10 years ago.
At first it was just members of Oldham Parish Church that patrolled the streets on a Saturday night, offering any support they could to people out enjoying a good time.
The team has now grown and earlier this year they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, marking their support for the town’s night time economy. Their activities continued during lockdown.
The council and Greater Manchester Police back the organisation’s work.
Oldham Council’s Youth Service and Oldham Street Angels have launched a new initiative – Trusted People – aimed at helping women and girls feel safe and confident when using the tram network.
Staff and volunteers are riding on Metrolink, visiting tram stops, and the areas around them, talking with residents of all ages.
The teams are offering a friendly face around the Oldham tram stops in case residents are feeling uneasy, especially as the winter nights draw in.
Until March 2022, the Youth Service are covering the stops between Freehold and Oldham Mumps at times when they are busy with school pupils and college students, with the Street Angels covering the later hours.
Funding for Trusted People comes after Greater Manchester secured £549,744 from the Home Office to launch a series of schemes as part of the Greater Manchester-wide Safer Streets campaign, which aims to help helping women and girls feel safer when out and about in the city-region.
It follows the launch of Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) Gender-Based Violence Strategy last month, which outlines how GMCA and its partners will tackle the many forms of gender-based violence through a whole-system approach over the next 10 years.
Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Deputy Leader of Oldham Council and Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “Metrolink has had a huge impact on Oldham - it’s made it so much easier for our residents to get around and connected the town better with the City region.
“Thousands of people use the tram every day, but it is unacceptable that a small number of women and girls cannot use public transport without feeling unsafe or being harassed.
“That’s why initiatives like Trusted People are important. Our Youth Service staff, and the Street Angels are there to provide reassurance and can be approached at any time.
“If you need support and see them please reach out to them.”
Councillor Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, is looking to volunteer with one of the Street Angels patrols in the coming weeks.
She said: “Our Youth Team and the Street Angels already do a brilliant job.
“They provide a friendly face, which can be really welcoming during the dark winter nights.
“Over the coming weeks thousands of people will be coming into Oldham to shop and enjoy themselves so it’s important the council and our partners are helping them feel safer with our Trusted People scheme.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Fire, Bev Hughes, said: “The Street Angels already provide a trusting presence in Oldham, so the Trusted People initiative is an extension of this, working with the youth team to provide reassurance and instil feelings of confidence and safety when using our public transport network.
“This is part of a series of interventions we are putting in place so women and girls can feel safer and be safer when out and about and is in response to concerns raised when shaping our ten-year strategy to end gender-based violence.”
VOLUNTEERS at the Oldham Street Angels charity got a visit from an Oldham MP this week.
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon met volunteers at the organisation to witness the work they do to help homeless people across the borough.
Taking to Facebook following his visit Mr McMahon wrote: “Homeless people too often fall through the cracks and have complex problems.
“I heard many personal stories, and it is clear to me that if we fail to support people to get back on track and live a stable and productive life, we always pay more as a society in the end. Meanwhile more lives are ruined as a consequence of not taking joined up and meaningful action.”
He added that volunteers at Oldham Street Angels “want to show that society doesn’t turn its back on people when times get hard”.
The group also provides night-time support on Friday and Saturday evenings to keep town centre visitors safe.
The charity has received support from Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham’s homeless scheme, as well as Oldham Council, GMP, the Oldham CCG and donations.
CNI Network led the Sunday Service which was broadcast to an audience of around 900,000 on BBC local radio stations across England and via BBC Sounds.
Listen to the service here.
In an article on Chaplaincy in London in the time of covid (full article here):
Ellie Barrett, Strip Club chaplain and Nightlife Ministries Coordinator for Third Space Ministries, Soho
“God probably hates me for what I’m doing” is often the perception of faith in the industry I work in, so the biggest breakthrough for me has been to show that whatever your life choices, you are a person and God does love and support you. We’ll usually go in pairs to the different clubs and spend about an hour sitting in the changing rooms or the breakout area so that when the girls are coming for breaks, they can sit and chat. We offer spiritual, emotional and pastoral support so if people just want to chat, that’s fine and if they want to talk about faith, that’s also fine. I’ve been blown away by how much people want prayer though and are starting to pray themselves, even without necessarily having faith. People are in the industry for different reasons and some enjoy the job but others don’t. Sometimes they need our support just for the night if they aren’t prepared for a situation that they’re in, or often it can be about family or friends or wider stuff that’s going on in their lives. Occasionally one of the girls might want to invite us to talk to her customer, so we’ll chat to him but the men aren’t our focus. During the lockdown conversations have been on the chaplaincy phone regarding mental health issues and not being able to do the work, or the fact they’re spending more time at home when, in some cases, home life isn’t that great. However, for those who were already thinking about making a change, Covid has given them a chance to take stock and a lot of them have chosen to go into new careers which are more stable at the moment. It’s been eye opening to me that I can still feel like a chaplain even though the clubs have been shut down for over a year. Since I started I’ve built some close relationships from seeing people on a weekly basis and going forward I’ll probably take those relationships with me. Even if they no longer need me as a strip club chaplain I can still be there as a support or a friend to them.
MyHouseYourHouse featured the Soundcheck ministry (link here):
Oldham Street Angels are one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive The Queen's Award for Voluntary Services in 2021.
Commonly known as the MBE for volunteer groups, it is the highest award a group can receive in the UK
The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
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