VOLUNTEERS from the Street Pastors project have now been out on the streets in Inverclyde on a weekly basis more than 400 times.
The initiative started in Greenock Town Centre by agreement with the local authority and the police in 2010 and was later extended to include Kempock Street in Gourock. In 2017 the service was extended to local trains through the introduction of Inverclyde Rail Pastors.
The street and rail pastors are Christians, from across all the various local denominations, with a common desire to help those on the streets and on trains who need support on a Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Their motto is Caring, Listening, Helping, and they undergo extensive training on a wide number of topics as part of offering the service. Alistair McAlees, the Inverclyde co-ordinator, said: “I have personally found being a Street Pastor, as well as the co-ordinator, one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done and I encourage local Christians to get in touch and know more about what it means to be a Street Pastor.
“We are able to take people out as observers on one of our sessions without commitment, to feel and see what it’s like.”
Frank Thomson, Shona Lyle, Andy McFarlane, Alastair McAlees, co-ordinator, and Tom Judge
Carys Lunn, one of the volunteers, said: “I enjoy being a Street and Rail pastor, helping people in my community in practical ways, and helping to make Inverclyde a safer place at night.”
Frank Thomson, Carys Lunn and Chris Jewell
The teams carry give away flip flops to avoid revellers in high heels getting cut feet when their shoes come off at the end of the night, plus thermal blankets, water and first aid and even lollipops for a sugar rush.
They can also direct those in need of help to the various local agencies available and have found that those out for the evening are grateful that the Street Pastors are out there for them in all weathers.
Crime rates fall when Street Pastors are out and about across the UK in nearly 300 towns and cities every weekend.
Bishop John Keenan, Roman Catholic Bishop of Paisley, which includes Inverclyde, is an enthusiastic supporter of Street and Rail Pastors. He said: “I have no doubt about the value of these volunteers often bringing hope and a caring attitude to those they meet over the course of the evening. I have greatly encouraged our congregations to get involved.”
Fraser Donaldson, minister of Greenock Elim church and a trustee of Inverclyde Christian Initiative, which runs Street and Rail Pastors in Inverclyde in association with Ascension Trust Scotland, said: “We have seen first-hand over quite some time now the value that Street and Rail Pastors can bring to the local community and the hundreds and hundreds of thanks we get is just one pointer to that.
“We look forward to them providing a continuing role and I also know how much having a caring and listening ear and heart has meant to many young people over the years.”
Laura Stewart from Police Scotland said: “These great volunteers are worth their weight in gold and are able to deal with quite a lot which otherwise would involve the police and tie up our resources. We are so glad they are able to help in the community in what they do.”
Inspector Lindsay Clarkson from British Transport Police added: “There is no doubt that the Rail Pastors are having a very positive impact on the Inverclyde trains, engaging with travellers young and older and providing help and re- assurance where needed.”
Alastair said: “The more Street and Rail Pastors we have the more we can be out and about in the local community.”
Anyone wishing more information can call Alastair on 07740 201 853 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The group also has Facebook page ‘Inverclyde Street Pastors’.