It's 15 years since Street Angels launched on the streets of Halifax in response to issues with the night-time economy.
Founded by Christians Paul and Jean Blakey, the couple decided to help the town shed its image as the 'Wild West of West Yorkshire' and opened a safe-place drop in at cafe owned by Churches Together and the YMCA.
Opening night was Friday 25th November 2005 and 50 volunteers turned up. With too many to help in the cafe, the volunteers took to the streets and Street Angels was born.
Paul told Premier how it all began:
"I thought: 'is there anything that we as a local church can do just to help those who are vulnerable, or those who may become vulnerable?' So, talking to the police and The Churches Together, who have this wonderful cafe facility in the heart of the town centre, it went from literally an idea to launch in just over two weeks.
"The police wanted a fresh new approach to the town centre on a Friday, Saturday night, when in Halifax between eight and 10,000 people can descend on the town. So we thought let's give something ago, a group of us committed to keeping that cafe open as a safe place. And amazingly, on the first evening, 50 people turned up to volunteer to work. It's been a fantastic roller coaster."
Paul and Jean Blakey's idea was almost an overnight success when it came to addressing problems in the town.
"I think it helped in the first 12 months in Halifax Town Centre. Violent crime, which normally goes up on a Friday and Saturday night was reduced by 42 per cent. And the police very publicly, locally as well as nationally, put that down to the fact that the church was out doing Street Angels on weekend evenings at a time when it was very much needed," Paul told Premier.
Fifteen years on, teams of Street Angels continue to offer help - armed with first aid kits, flip-flops and lollipops and are seen on streets right across the country.
Paul Blakey MBE went on to form Christian Nightlife Initiatives, an umbrella organisation for around 130 projects.
"We've expanded from just working within the night-time economy to doing things like festival angels. And we had last year a team of festival angels at 16 music festivals across the UK, as well as supporting initiatives abroad.
"We've had community angels, and they've responded amazingly during these last few months of lockdown, community angels are dealing with some of the most vulnerable, perhaps elderly people within communities.
"So, they've really stepped up to the mark and lots of our Street Angel teams have become community angels and offered telephone helplines and prayer and counselling and support and lots of different ways of responding to our current situation."
As for the future there are plans to continue expanding overseas. Street Angels already operate in Magaluf and have links in Tenerife and to the Seychelles Night Pastors.
"We've got a team in Wilmington, North Carolina, and so, very much that the fact that it works so amazingly well in the UK, and we can export that and expand into other countries was on our heart.
"We're so thankful to the amazing teams of volunteers that go out week in week out, when they can of course, and they've made a massive difference in local communities by helping reduce crime, helping reduce antisocial behaviour, and showcasing the church as a real agent of change."
Today is our fifteenth birthday!
Fifteen years ago today a response to the needs in Halifax town centre binge drink culture on weekend evenings became Street Angels!
We are so thankful for where God has led us on this 15 year journey:
A model that has been replicated through CNI Network within communities across the UK, Spain, Seychelles, Australia, America and Brasil.
A family of amazing people who are committed to bringing change to local communities.
Reductions in violent crime and anti-social behaviour that saves money and resources for vital services such as the NHS, Paramedics and Police.
Developing new areas of work and impact including: safe place drop-in's; Festival Angels; Youth Angels; within homeless communities; in clubs and pubs through Club Angels; night-time chaplaincy; support for the isolated and lonely in communities; #Do1NiceThing; #FaithAndPoliceTogether; alcohol and safety schools resource; NightChurch; SafeNightOut.party; and Jesus Loves Festivals and Clubbers.
Showcasing that the church is an organisation that brings change within communities and individuals including to MP's, Prime Ministers, the Royal Family, Home Office and through the media.
We are so thankful for all who are part of our 15 year journey! For every volunteer who helps make our streets / clubs / pubs / festivals / communities like new again! We can't celebrate as we had planned to but do join us in thanking God for this vision and journey...
The University of Surrey is providing further financial support to local charity Guildford Street Angels. The £1000 donation will help towards covering the cost of providing their night-time patrols, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Guildford Street Angel volunteers have been patrolling Guildford Town Centre at weekends, late at night, since 2008 - listening, caring and helping vulnerable people. Street Angels have been recognised as making a significant contribution to ensuring the welfare of people on the streets of Guildford at night, including many students.
Nikki Dormon, Public Engagement Manager at the University of Surrey, said “We are delighted to be able to support and work collaboratively with the Street Angels project again this year. Students, as well as many other members of our community, benefit from the care and support offered by the Street Angels night-time patrols, and we really value being able to work closely with the Guildford Town Centre Chaplaincy and the rest of the team. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students is our top priority and the Street Angels programme, alongside our own Street Marshals initiative, helps us to achieve this.”
Rev Noelle Coe, Guildford Town Chaplain, thanked the University for their support saying: “The Chaplaincy is thrilled and most grateful to receive this on-going support for our Street Angel project. Many of the people that we help are students, so we are pleased to be working collaboratively with the University to help care for them.”
She added “Street Angels are known and respected in our Town and are there to assist people of any age in need, which is particularly valued at the end of the night to encourage people to disperse quietly and get home safely. The Angels work closely with the police, providing additional eyes and ears, working to avoid conflict and reducing pressure on the emergency services.”
To find out more about the University’s work in the local community visit: surrey.ac.uk/community
The Oldham Street Angels have been getting a helping hand with freshly cooked meals for the vulnerable courtesy of the Revolve Café at Oldham Leisure Centre.
The Oldham Street Angels, who more typically can be found volunteering on the streets supporting revellers and the night time economy, have expanded their provision since lockdown and are now offering hot meals to feed the homeless and those in need.
Donna Shaw, Coordinator and Development worker for the Oldham Street Angels, said: “As the night time economy closed, the Oldham Street Angels gradually started to help the community in a different way, offering hot meals, hot drinks and toiletries the vulnerable may need.
"Our volunteers are now providing a takeaway hot meal on Wednesdays between 2-4pm and Saturdays between 9-11pm.
“But the last few weeks have become really challenging.
"We are now in a new lockdown and have lost a lot of our donations.
"We have managed to keep going through generous individuals and companies, helping us to provide 200 meals a week.”
Mark Woodcock, Project Officer for the Oldham Active Communities Project, run through Oldham Community Leisure, said: “Prior to lockdown we ran a regular session at Oldham Leisure Centre, the Friday Club, which helped to combat loneliness.
"As we can only currently run the Friday Club virtually, we have been looking at the most effective way to use some of the funding we allocate to run this club in our centre to the wider community.
"We felt it would be a great idea to offer some freshly cooked meals to the homeless and to those would really benefit.”
Mark and the OCL team have been collecting the raw food ingredients, whilst the Oldham Leisure Centre cooks, Brenda and Lesley, have been preparing wholesome and filling meals for the Oldham Street Angels to distribute.
This weeks’ meal was a delicious cheese and onion pie with vegetables.
Mark added: “Oldham Community Leisure has been very supportive of ways to engage with the community at this difficult time and want to continue to help out, even when our centres remain closed.
"We are very lucky that members of our team, such as Lesley and Brenda, are happy to volunteer and help to build strong community partnerships.
"It’s a real collaborative team effort.”
Donna concluded: “We are so grateful to our volunteers and partners, including OCL.
"We are committed to help those in need, and we are humbled by the Oldham community spirit, helping us to help others.”
For more details about the Oldham Street Angels, click on: https://www.facebook.com/OldhamAngels
A Blackpool entertainment spot is being developed to provide a safe meeting place for homeless people in the area.
The crazy golf course on Princess Parade is being renovated by community engagement charity Redeeming Our Communities, homeless charity Street Angels and partly funded by the Fulfilling Lives programme.
The site, at the seafront, has become a popular congregation point for homeless people living across the resort over the past few years.
Around four months ago Street Angels identified it as a place where they could help sending down a van to provide food, tea, coffee and a person to talk to if needed.
Redeeming Our Communities (ROC) is a non-for profit Christian organisation that brings together community groups, churches, the police, the fire service, local authorities and voluntary agencies to empower them to work together for practical change.
The organisation has also recognised it as an area it could help and began work on Friday (November 6) blitzing the course by sanding, painting, trimming down the unruly hedges and de-weeding the area.
ROC Garden development manager for the ROC Garden team in the North West said: "There's two parts to what we do; the first is to help people back onto the road of employment, building up skills and confidence; the second is gardening.
"So far, we have only played a small part in this project it's mainly headed up by Paul Rawson in Blackpool from Street Angels with funding from Fulfilling Lives.
"Our ROC Garden team were able to help with some of the maintenance and keeping it looking tidy for the general public and service users to use.
"It's definitely making the town centre safer as it was place where a lot of homeless people used to naturally gather and meet. We make efforts to help the nighttime economy safer so we aim to help by providing a safer place for those who struggle with addiction late at night. We'd also like to take on some homeless people as volunteers to maintain the area which could hopefully lead to employment."
The site is an old heritage plot which the charity says can't be improved by starting again so the effort has to go into restoring the existing course. The area also evokes a lot of nostalgia as due to it being close to the popular North Pier. So far, the renovation has had an excellent response from the community.
Founder of Street Angels, Paul Blakey MBE, said: "I have seen and am impressed with the massive amount of work put into restoring the Crazy Golf Course on Princess Parade by the Blackpool and the Fylde Street Angels and partners.
"It is an inspiring story and one that will become a new family favourite attraction on Blackpool's seafront for years to come. That the project will help continue to support the homeless community in Blackpool which sees them offered hope and the possibility of support to get them re-homed is even more of a reason to look forward to the Crazy Golf Course reopening soon.
The course is expected to be fully open to the public by Easter 2021.
November’s Community Hero is Andy Burns BEM who founded Street Chaplains in Dundee in 2000.
Andy shares that a visit to Dundee for a fish supper late one weekend evening became the start of Street Chaplains.
“We were surprised at the vast numbers of young people in the pubs, clubs and on the streets so next week we started Street Chaplains.
“We worked under the radar for three years, building the team and working independently chatting to people and making connections.
“After a few years the police asked us what we were doing and asked if we could meet with the City Centre Sargeant.
“At that meeting he suggested we become integrated into the safety of the city centre and suggested the team wear uniforms and coats with an offer to pay for them, spending £3500 on high quality jackets for the growing team.
“The jackets are still in use today!”
The project went from strength to strength as the jacketed team spoke with door staff, pub and club owners and DJ’s. The team are very much focussed on outreach, wanting to share the hope that is found in Jesus, and all members are encouraged to think of new and innovative ideas to reach out within Dundee.
“At one stage we were joining in with the pub karaokes with the team singing hymns such as ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’ which went down exceptionally well as it was featured in the film Sister Act at the time.”
Over the years the work of the Street Chaplains has expanded to include work with the homeless, nightclub chaplaincy and Festival Chaplains.
“We have made some strategic links with a wide range of organisations including Dundee City Council Licensing Board and Dundee Anti-Crime Network where we meet monthly with police, bar staff and managers to ensure that Dundee is a safe and vibrant night out for people.”
One of the key developments is Festival Chaplains which started in Montrose, at Mo Fest, in 2013 and has since expanded to include Edinburgh Festival, Brechin Festival and one off events such as Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The team have also connected with The Living Room in Tenerife with several of the team visiting to take part in outreach in Los Americas amongst visitors and workers.
Andy moved back to his home town in Northern Ireland in 2015 where he saw a need for Street Chaplains in towns in Northern Ireland including Lurgan, Newcastle and Kilkeel which he started in partnership with local church communities.
“We hope to keep developing new ideas for the future with daytime chaplains in Northern Ireland a possibility and prayer walking as communities come out of the various lockdowns.
“Our heart and vision at this time is to look at how we offer support and help to business owners both during the day and in the evenings to help them as they recover from 2020.”
In 2018 Andy was recognised by Her Majesty the Queen and received a BEM (British Empire Medal). Andy and a few of the volunteers, bar staff and managers and church representatives attended a reception in Dundee City Chambers where the Lord Lieutenant presented Andy with his honour. Later in the year Andy and his wife Marina were invited to the Queen’s Garden Party in Holyrood Palace where he met the Queen.
“This honour is on behalf of all the volunteers who have invested amazingly into local communities both in Scotland and Northern Ireland and is doing so have seen a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour and shown people the hope and love that can be known through Jesus.”
Over the 20 years the team has helped and assisted hundreds of people.
“Recently in Newcastle a young man approached the team to share that he had been a drug addict and drunk at least a bottle of vodka a day.
“Through one of the Street Chaplain volunteers chatting to him and showing that his life had worth and meaning he decided to go to rehab and went to a Christain rehab centre in Manchester.
“He is now back in Newcastle and has joined a local church and is getting his life on track with a prayer and hope to go to Bible College and become a pastor.”
Street Chaplains have a motto of Reaching Out to make Christ Known and the team are certainly doing that amongst some of the least reached people in Dundee and Northern Ireland.
To find out more visit dundeechaplains.org.uk or facebook.com/ROCKStreetChaplains.
Latest news from CNI Network...
As part of Interfaith Week from 8th -15th November. CST - Community Safety Trust are putting on some SAFE (Security Advice For Everyone) webinars that cover all of the key elements of security for places of worship and will include Covid implications. Some of the areas covered are:-
They have developed 2 webinars A+B, each lasting an hour that ideally need you to participate in both – including time for questions. There is also a combined webinar.
Please note that each individual will need to register for the event using their Zoom registration.
The Community Security Trust is the UK Jewish community security organisation. We can trace our roots back 75 years to when a group of Jewish ex-servicemen returning from war were horrified to discover that the racism that had been rife in Britain in the 1930s had not gone away. They set up a group to protect the UK Jewish community and from those beginnings we now have the CST: around 100 professional staff and 2,500 active, trained volunteers providing security at the UK’s 650 Jewish community buildings and 1,000 Jewish community events every year.
CST has shared their knowledge with other faith groups for decades, but since the Christchurch and Sri Lanka attacks we have been inundated with requests to help other communities, including many from police forces, local government and mayors’ offices around the country.
They have responded by delivering security awareness briefings to these faith communities. They call this programme SAFE – Security Advice For Everyone. CST is doing this work because they believe it is right to share their security knowledge with communities that are the target of hate crime. Visit their website for more www.cst.org.uk
Guildford Street Angels leader Chris Britton has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
The award for Mr Britton, chair of Guildford Town Centre Chaplaincy (GTCC), marks his many years of community service, especially with young people in the town.
He moved here 40 years ago, volunteered as a Street Angel in their first year of operation, 2008, and now champions the work as a trustee. Mr Britton steered inception of the Community Angels project which now serves the lonely and isolated in our local communities.
The Boys’ Brigade has been another passion, serving for 45 years, 30 with the 1st Guildford Company he led for 15 years and he has helped in a local initiative to start new after-school clubs, called “Fusion” groups.
The Britton family have been members of St Saviour’s Church since 1981, where he has also served in many roles.
“I am so proud, and humbled, to have been awarded the BEM, such an unexpected honour,” Mr Britton said.
“To be able to be involved with projects that have helped so many people, from all walks of life, and particularly young people has been a privilege in itself.
“I believe this special recognition reflects on the work of all the teams of volunteers at GTCC and the other charities I am involved in, who share my passion about serving others, motivated by putting faith into action.”
Mr Britton will be presented with his medal by Michael More-Molyneux, HM Lord Lieutenant of Surrey (patron of GTCC), at a special ceremony.
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