SDLP councillor, Stephanie Quigley, has hosted the first inter-denominational meeting of a new ‘Street Pastor’ initiative for the borough.
At least 10 different churches were represented at the first information sharing evening in the Coleraine Borough Council offices at Cloonavin.
The presentation by the Belfast City Centre Manager and treasurer of the Belfast Street Pastors, Andrew Irvine, was given a warm and positive response.
Councillor Quigley explained why she wants to introduce this scheme in Coleraine: “As a mum of five, I have parented two of mine through the teenage stage, and I know the challenges that the next generation faces.
“As a parent, it’s good to know that when your child is out socialising late at night, there are people out there ready to care for them and look after them if they get into any difficulty. Showing kindness to each other is an important expression of who we are as Christians.”
Although the Street Pastor initiative is world-wide, there are only three schemes currently running in Ireland – in Cork, Belfast and Newtownabbey.
‘Street Pastors’ are Christian people from all ages and backgrounds, who work in co-ordinated teams of four - normally two men and two women - from different denominations.
Although a Christian organisation, the help they offer is profoundly practical. They work alongside the police, Council and voluntary organisations to help make the streets, late at night, a safer place.
In explaining the role of Street Pastors, Andrew said, “In today’s society, young people are under pressure to use alcohol and sometimes other substances. They don’t appreciate how vulnerable that leaves them.
“Street Pastors gives a fantastic opportunity for adults, within the context of church, to be properly trained and then go on to the street to actually take care of people who are enjoying the night time economy, and ultimately making sure they get home safely.”
Primarily they help those coming out of pubs and clubs, especially from 11pm to 3am. They care for those who are alone, vulnerable, and needing help.
The Street Pastors collect glass bottles from the street and dispose of them in order to prevent the bottles causing injury or being used as weapons; they hand out flip-flops to women who are walking bare-foot; they get help (or a taxi) for those who have been left alone by their friends; and they prevent fights by getting alongside people and calming them down.
If your church organisation would like to know more or be involved in this initiative, there will be a further information evening in Coleraine Borough Council, Cloonavin Council Headquarters on Thursday, March 6 at 7.30pm. All are welcome.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for attendance.