Hit the streets

Mike Grimshaw introduces the volunteers who wander the streets at night

Street Pastors

Street Pastors patrol the streets of Waltham Forest after dark

We all know our streets are becoming increasingly dangerous. So who is going to be out on  them late at night or in the wee hours of the morning?

Shift workers, perhaps; party-goers; and of course rough sleepers. But surely everyone else will be at home, safely tucked up in their beds? Not quite.

A small band of intrepid people, drawn from various local churches, give up their home comforts for one night each month to venture out on to the streets of Waltham Forest. They are not doing this to evangelise, but simply to make themselves available to listen to the concerns of anyone whose path they might cross.

This band of brothers and sisters, these happy few folk, are known as ‘Street Pastors’. I recently met up with a couple of them, Amarh Amartey and Jean Rickard, to find out more.

Amarh and Jean told me that the concept of Street Pastors was established nationally 15 years ago, by the Ascension Trust, and started operating locally in Waltham Forest in 2011 following that summer’s London riots. The organisation is the product of co-operation  between churches, the Metropolitan Police, and Waltham Forest Council.

Another Street Pastor, Rose Willaims, told me: “Some of the most fulfilling times are when we meet a complete stranger who is going through some difficulties in their life and they willingly confide in us, knowing we are not going to judge them.”

Within the borough there are three Street Pastor teams; in Leytonstone, Leyton and  Walthamstow, and in Chingford. Each team goes out one Friday a month, either from 8.30pm until 11pm, or from 10.30pm until 1am or 2am. Each volunteer is expected to pay £50 towards costs, while everything else being provided by the trust.

Street Pastors need to undergo eight Saturdays of training, run by the trust, with input from the police, psychologists, and other experts. It is open to any committed Christian – at least one reference of each volunteer has to be his or her pastor. Hi-vis jackets and ID cards are provided.

There are presently a total of 17 Street Pastors in Waltham Forest, but there is a real need for more people to enlist. A dedicated website provides more information on how to apply and, by the time you read this article, should include an excellent video introduction to the work that Street Pastors do.

For more information about becoming a Street Pastor:
Visit streetpastors.org

Contact the team leaders directly:
Email williamandhazel@tiscali.
co.uk (Leytonstone)
Email amarhsamartey@gmail.com
(Leyton, Walthamstow, Chingford)