WHEN darkness casts its cloak city streets can appear intimidating.
Watching revellers spilling out of the bars and restaurants - many with smiles on their faces - paints a different perspective to the negative image we may have of any city centre at night.
The social side is one of the many aspects which appealed to Anne Griffin when she decided to join the Street Angels in her home city of Bradford.
Street Angels was set up by the city centre churches in 2007. The organisation works with the police, ambulance service, pubs and clubs keeping people safe on the city’s streets.
It was, recalls Anne, a newspaper article in the T&A that prompted her to get involved over a year ago. They were seeking recruits and Anne, who leads a very active life anyway, was keen to see what the role entailed.
She attended a meeting, went on a shift and decided it was something she would like to do.
Anne is in her early 70s and possibly one of the group’s oldest volunteers which demonstrates how age isn’t a barrier either. The only criteria is volunteers have to be 18 or over.
“It is really friendly - we are all from different walks of life,” explains Anne.
She suits the role perfectly as she enjoys walking. Volunteers stroll around the city centre on Friday evenings. Easily identifiable with their ‘Street Angels’ branded fluorescent clothing, Street Angels provide a comforting presence on one of the busiest social evenings of the week.
Patrolling in teams of three or four they are a listening ear to those who need to talk, or can provide support to the more vulnerable people they see during their patrol of the city’s streets.
Anne says they provide an approachable presence, some examples of the type of experiences they encounter during a night patrol include stepping in to wait with an elderly couple while their relative went to collect the car following a family outing to the theatre; helping young girls to get home safely following a night out with friends, or assisting and supporting someone who may have collapsed in the street or who may be ill to get medical assistance.
“The commitment is once a month or once every two months but we are short of volunteers.” explains Anne.
A change in circumstances can result in people not being able to commit the time anymore, but for those who are thinking of fulfilling the role it is certainly rewarding - according to Anne.
“I just love it,” says Anne, whose enthusiasm is indicative of her fondness for her Street Angel’s role.
“I like chatting with people.”
“It’s part of what I do.
“I look at it as my night out because I thoroughly enjoy it.”
Anne’s advice to anyone contemplating becoming a Street Angel is to accompany them on a shift and see if it is for you: “Come along with us,” she says.
“It has opened up a completely new avenue for me. I would never have come into Bradford at night and I have seen a completely different city.”
There are currently 60 volunteers on the Bradford Street Angels active list, but they are always looking for more recruits to maintain the service.
Chris Swale, admin officer with Bradford Street Angels explains volunteers are ‘crucial’ for them to keep the service going.
The organisation holds initiatives such as the UBU Freshers Fair, which Anne and her fellow Street Angels attended, to raise the profile of the organisation and to recruit more volunteers.
“The commitment we ask for is just to patrol whenever they can: once a month would be ideal but is not always possible as most people have family commitments, work etc,” explains Chris.
Paul Sunderland, chairman of Bradford Street Angels, adds: “Our volunteers are the heartbeat of the charity. Without these amazing dedicated people, who are willing to give their own time and energy to keep the vulnerable of our great city safe, then Bradford Street Angels would be no more.
“We do, however need to keep recruiting new volunteers to ensure everyone can have a break.”
For anyone wanting to get involved in Bradford Street Angels, or to find out more information visit firstname.lastname@example.org, contact the group through Facebook or visit bradfordstreetangels,org.uk.