Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire, its a historic market town at its core, but with large growth since the 1950s has a population of around 70,000.
There are several large churches and with a view to serving this community, Aylesbury Town Chaplaincy was set up in 2011 as an independent charity.
Since 2012, Chaplains have been out and about during the day in Aylesbury, and Street Angels, late into the night. We are a small, local charity born out of the desire of local churches to serve the needs of the thousands of people who live, work and visit Aylesbury every day.
Our ‘Vision’ statement explains this:
We love our town and, by coming alongside those who work, shop, play and live here, we wish to demonstrate God’s, unconditional love. We aim to provide comfort, support and encouragement (practical, emotional and spiritual) to all, through our regular, visible and caring presence. We aim to work in co-operation with like-minded partners for the wellbeing of all in our community.
In practice, there are 2 elements of our work: day-time Chaplains, and night-time Street Angels.
The Chaplains offer a ‘listening ear’ – a friendly presence and a confidential, independent and impartial ear to those who are going through difficult times, or just want to meet with someone who has the time to listen. They are available for anyone who needs someone to listen to them, about concerns, worries or aspirations; someone to share about their life. They have time for people and are interested in them. They’ll listen and chat about anything, including spiritual matters or prayer if required.
Currently, our Chaplains are in various places in Aylesbury. In the town centre, we have Chaplains to the various shopping centres, streets or areas, and they are around and about on parts of Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at the moment.
Other Chaplains are placed within particular organisations: Aylesbury Police Station, Morrisons supermarket, Aylesbury College, the Crown Courts and University Campus Aylesbury Vale.
While listening they may realise that the person speaking needs further specialist help and they can signpost people to other agencies and organisations which offer this. We don’t always know what difference these conversations and encouragement make, but we do know that many people value the Chaplains’ time, and come back to say what happened next. People have shared concerns about work, health, family, homelessness, loneliness, but also good times – new jobs, new relationships and new homes.
The Street Angels are out in the town centre in a team of three on either a Friday or Saturday night from around 11pm to 3.30am. They offer practical help and act as a calming, community presence. They offer simple and practical help; they give out flip flops so people’s feet are protected (their dancing shoes may have become too uncomfortable to wear!), they hold sick bags, have hair ties and bottles of water as well as being able to give basic first aid.
They make sure anyone out on the street, sleeping rough, is aware of and in touch with homelessness services. They help people find a safe way home – either via a taxi or by calling friends or family. This work is all done in liaison with our local police, licensees, CCTV operators and door staff, and we have been loaned a radio to enable us to be linked with the CCTV and door staff. Street Angels can also be involved in defusing potentially problematic situations; they give away hundreds of lollipops a year, and it is remarkable how the mood lightens with the offer of a lollipop!
Street Angels are part of the night-time economy partnership which has enabled Aylesbury to be awarded a Purple Flag several years in a row. This is awarded to towns and cities who demonstrate excellence in managing the night-time economy and indicates a safe, diverse, and vibrant night out.
We are members of two national networks of Chaplaincies (Alliance of Town & City Chaplaincies) and night-time work (Christian Night-time Initiatives, CNI network) so we can support, encourage and learn from each other.
We are also supported by many individuals and organizations in-kind or financially – local churches, Thames Valley Police, AVDC & BCC Community Safety Teams, Aylesbury Town Council, Heart of Bucks, Co-operative Community Fund, members of our Friends scheme, the Town Centre Partnership and many others.
To find out more you can click on our website www.aylesburytownchplaincy.co.uk, follow us on Twitter @AylesburySA, email us at email@example.com, or call 01296 398110.
The heart of CNI Network is to make known the love that Jesus has for each and every person we come across and to share that every person is amazing because God has made them amazing!
Often this 'making known' is done in very practical ways through flip-flops, band aids or helping put up tents at festivals. Sometimes it is through conversation - be it five seconds or sitting down with someone over a a cuppa. Sometimes it is through the offer of our special 'Jesus Loves Clubbers' or 'Jesus Loves Festivals' copy of the Jesus story.
Our team in Majorca, Street Angels Spain, have recently worked with the team from Reach Mallorca who have shared this message of hope and love with those on holiday in the resort - read more here...
The Deputy Mayor of Middlesbrough, Antony High, joined the team on Saturday 10th August on what was a very wet patrol for much of the time. There was plenty to do though including helping a female to the Safe Haven at the request of one of the bars.
A young man separated from his friends was laying on the wet pavement, short of breath and shivering - the team was alerted by the public. They wrapped him up and escorted him to the Safe Haven to be looked at.
Antony was very appreciative and supportive of the work of Boro Angels and the team look forward to working with him and his colleagues to help make Middlesbrough a better, safer place to be.
Festival Angels had a stall at Creation Fest at the Royal Cornwall Showground. The aim was to promote the growing number of Festival Angels teams in Cornwall as well as the new Pirans Angels team in Newquay. The Boardmasters Festival Angels team were prayed for as part of the evening celebration on Tuesday. Several of the Festival Angels were able to get photos with some of the artists at Creation Fest including Wildwood Kin, Philippa Hanna, Josh Curnow and the CEO of Creation Fest Sarah Yardley.
On Tuesday night the team moved down to Boardmasters which was sadly cancelled at a few hours before the gates were to open due to 50mph winds forecast for the weekend. It was sad to see the main stage, big tops, marquees, catering vans, etc all begin to pack down and leave instead of 53,000 festival-goers streaming in to set up camp. Festival Angels joined the local Pirans Angels team on Wednesday to offer advice, travel guidance and support to those who had arrived in Newquay before the announcement was made. Most of the Festival Angels team had to leave on Thursday as the Boardmasters site was closing down leaving Pirans Angels to offer support and welfare on Thursday to Sunday nights as alternative Boardmasters parties were planned.
Festival Angels prays for those involved in running Boardmasters who had to make such a difficult decision and for the businesses on the site and in Newquay affected.
A Festival Angels team organised by Third Space Ministries was at Eastern Electrics in Morden. On Saturday they worked with Morden Baptist Church to welcome festival goers to Morden with free drinks, glitter face painting, DJs, prayer & a listening ear. On both days volunteers were at the festival site offering peace, love, support, safety, & encouragement to lots of festival goers through a safe place and detached teams.
"One of the tremendous privileges of this job has been to meet many of you, the British Nationals involved in your communities in so many different ways. Those of you volunteering with organisations like Cruz Roja, Age Concern and so many more; helping fight forest fires in Javea or looking after British cemeteries; those raising funds to help those in need; young people volunteering with organisations like Street Angels in Mallorca, helping to look after British visitors to the island or British councillors serving their local communities." Simon Manley, the British Ambassador to Madrid as he leaves his role - read the article here
De Montfort University Students help holiday-makers in Magaluf - read the story here:
De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students have been helping holidaymakers stay safe during nights out in Magaluf.
Health and Wellbeing in Society students and their tutors worked with Street Angels, volunteer teams who patrol the resort's nightlife district, to provide basic first aid and other assistance to partygoers.
An unconscious young man was among those assisted by the DMU group, who provided comfort, called for an ambulance and tried to track down his hotel and friends based on his room key.
Volunteering was the highlight of a 'memorable' trip to the Spanish island of Majorca for student Sue Litchfield.
She said: "I had heard of Magaluf's reputation, but hearing and seeing are two different things.
"I was shocked by the behaviour but also filled with compassion to help. I will definitely be going back again to help."
This was just one of the activities that enabled students to apply their learning in a real-life context and analyse factors conducive to risky health behaviours.
Trip lead Zaqia Rehman said: "The inspiration was seeing news reports about young British tourists in Spain who were falling from balconies because of reckless and alcohol-related behaviours.
"We teach social, psychological and political indicators to health behaviours, for example in workshops students look at why some people smoke or don't wear seatbelts.
"We decided to do this on an international scale and compare Leicester with Magaluf."
Source (with images)
It's 3am on the cold streets of Oldham, people are in crisis and there's nowhere for them to go
In the second part of our series chronicling life in austerity hit Oldham, Politics and Investigations Editor Jen Williams spends the evening with the volunteers of the Street Angels project - and finds kindness, sadness and a ravaged safety net
It is past midnight in Oldham town centre, Saturday night bleeding into Sunday as drinkers noisily drift from pub to club.
Tucked just off the main drag, Rev Jean Hurlston and her tight-knit group of volunteers are sober, in both senses of the word.
Volunteers at her Street Angels project, set up to support public services by helping people who get into difficulties in the town centre at the weekend - either because of minor injuries, fights, homelessness or general drunkenness - are worried.
Their paramedic, Gemma, has just found an elderly homeless man out-of-it on the streets. Jim, not his real name, had popped in earlier on for a brew and some cake, as many of those sleeping rough in the town do, for warmth, sustenance or company. He hadn’t really said much before shuffling back out into the night.
Gemma has now found him barely conscious on the streets and is whispering to Jean in a low, worried voice. I have been here for the last few hours, watching as the team hand out hot drinks and bowls of chilli, taking the various tragic stories they hear in their stride. But now they don’t know what to do.
Jim appears to have fallen over but is suffering from no obvious injuries or mental health crisis. Yet at nearly 70 he is vulnerable, one of the town’s drifting population of street homeless often more associated with Manchester next door.
Gemma manages to get enough information from him to learn that his last house was in Rochdale, so they make an early-hours phone call to Rochdale council. No, they say. He’s not ours. He’s originally from Oldham.
The volunteers then try Oldham council’s out-of-hours service. No, they say. He can come in tomorrow morning, but they have nothing for him right now.
He slumps silently in a chair as everyone wonders aloud what to do next.
Rough sleeping may be a more visible problem in the city centre a few miles away than in its peripheral towns like Oldham, but the gaps in the system are just the same. Although Jean, the Dean of Oldham, set up Street Angels in 2011 as a general support service for Saturday nights, it gradually evolved into a drop-in for the town’s homeless.
I listen as two men, probably not older than 40, share gallows humour over a coffee.
One, who says he became homeless after a relationship breakdown, has been sleeping under a railway arch. When he applied for housing, he received a letter - he says - informing him he was not a priority as his current housing situation ‘is not a threat to his health’.
They laugh darkly.
Volunteer Peter Russell, 26, is all too familiar with the scenario. A few weeks ago he was helped off the streets by the project, ‘the first place I’ve ever asked for help’.
“I think there’s just a break in the system,” he says of the path to destitution. “With zero hour contracts, it’s hard for people to keep their home.
“I was living in my house six years and getting into debt and arrears and becoming homeless, paying them off then going back into them… It was the month’s difference that always set it off, when you lose work and go onto benefits.
“I feel for people in that situation.”
Peter speaks with quiet anger of the spiral he and others have found themselves in. “It’s trying to keep a rhythm, trying to keep things flowing,” he says of juggling rent with wages.
“I’ve worked on the markets, I’ve worked cash in hand doing walls and flagstones, painting, bakeries, I’ve just had to keep a bit of a flow up.”
Sometimes, though, that just gets too much, he says.
“I’ve had it a few times over the years since I was 16.
“You’d have work, then everything has come to a crash, work, family, health, one after the other. I don’t have much family and I definitely don’t choose to ask for help.”
Eventually he landed up on the streets. Even then, he was working, but in the end it was unsustainable.
“While I was homeless, I still had my job over at JD.
“I was still doing my 12-hour shifts. I struggled to sleep through the day and also do my work. I didn’t really have a great Christmas with the weather. It became harder to hide it for work. Luckily they had showers there but people were realising I was staying back to have a shower when everyone else was rushing off. It became noticeable.”
Now in temporary accommodation, he says he wants to give back by helping out at Street Angels. Jean says the project has ended up being focused more and more on destitution, although Gemma - who is funded by the NHS - also takes a huge weight off emergency services by patching up revellers and keeping them out of A&E.
“The biggest thing is the rough sleeping and homelessness,” she says, adding that Universal Credit and other benefits issues are a common cause.
“That’s why we started to say: how can we respond in more of a strategic and meaningful way - and that’s when we set up the drop-in.
“We were going round the town and bumping into people who were begging and we’d say ‘do you want us to bring hot drinks’? And we’d go back and find they’d moved on.
“We decided to go out and invite people to come in so they can have a hot meal, clothing, conversation.
“The first thing you do is welcome them. It doesn’t matter what they came in for. Often you find out why and people sort of open up as they get to know us.”
While she admits the charity is undoubtedly plugging gaps in the system, she does not see that as a negative thing.
“There are people who will say we shouldn’t be doing it, we’re propping up failing services,” she says.
“But actually I think we should be doing it, because we should practice what we preach. It’s about linking with the civic community, local voluntary sector, faith being real.
“What do you do for the town? It’s more than the service. It’s about looking inwards, it’s about looking outwards.”
At about 2am a young man comes in while the team is still wondering what to do about Jim.
He asks for a sleeping bag but they’ve run out, so he takes a Soreen bar, one of many regular donations from Chadderton FC.
They offer him a duvet, but he shakes his head.
“Nah,” he says quietly. “The wind just rips through it.”
At nearly 3am, the team comes to a decision. There is nowhere for Jim to go apart from A&E, despite there being nothing really wrong with him. They know that once the hospital realises this, they will almost certainly discharge him - but at least he will be safe and warm for a few hours.
He doesn’t have any money or a mobile, so they write him a note with the number for Oldham’s housing team and slip it into his pocket with £2.50 for the following morning, before preparing to order a taxi.
“Look at that face, how much character there is in it,” says Jean, quietly, as the team sit and look at him. “A life well lived.”
As I leave, they are waiting for the cab. I walk out into the dark 3am air and drive back to Manchester, feeling guilty, hollow and lucky all at once.
Since this article was researched in April, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has agreed to extend its night shelter scheme - 'A Bed Every Night' - throughout the rest of this year, including in Oldham.
For more about Oldham's Street Angels, see here .
Festival Angels were at Kendal Calling in the Lake District helping run safe hubs and detached teams in various camp sites. The amazing team went above and beyond to offer care and support to some of the 35,000 festival goers and staff. The weather turned wet on Saturday resulting in mud but dried up for Sunday which included a flypast from the 'Jesus Calls Will U Follow' banner plane. It is hoped to build on the work at Kendal Calling over the next years.
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