Pastors take to the streets on lively city nights

MEMBERS of Morpeth Rotary Club gave full attention to Eunice Attwood as she described the work of street pastors in the liveliest parts of central Newcastle on Friday and Saturday nights.

The project works with the most vulnerable of the thousands of people who head into the city at weekends to drink and go clubbing.

The training and experience of her previous job as an intensive care nurse is often called upon when Eunice shares one of the 10pm to 4am shifts at the Bigg Market and other nearby ‘party’ districts.

Volunteers seek to help those in need of support, particularly vulnerable females that are drunk and incapable.

Eunice is now an ordained Methodist Deacon based at Brunswick Methodist Church in Newcastle and Vice President of the national Methodist Conference.

She helped to set up the project working with the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, a Baptist Minister and the Salvation Army, which also shares the Brunswick premises for meetings and worship. They work in partnership with the local authority and police.

Volunteers do one shift a month in teams of three or four. They carry water, sugar, flip flops (drunken girls find it difficult to walk in high heels), foil blankets and a small first aid kit.

As well as helping the vulnerable, they also try to defuse dangerous or aggressive situations, sometimes by giving the would-be fighters a chocolate frog each.

They clear up any glass bottles they find as they might become offensive weapons. The most violent times are between 2am and 4am.

They are in electronic communication with the police, who deal with the most dangerous situations, but officers do not usually have the time to stay and give pastoral support to individuals in need.

In the 18 months to June 2011, the Newcastle street pastors picked up 4,829 glass bottles, given away 1,144 bottles of water, 587 flip flops and 516 safety blankets, provided first aid help to 184, assisted 932 distressed people and helped to deal with 34 incidents of anti-social behaviour and 120 altercations.

They have a good relationship with club and pub door staff.