In 1989 the Presbyterian Church in Belfast pioneered a group that were out on the streets of the Belfast "Golden Mile" on weekend nights between 11pm and 3am. In 1995 Nightlight became a regular feature on a weekend night in Belfast and many other towns across Northern Ireland until just before the pandemic.
In so many ways the work in Northern Ireland was a first for what has now become a standard in most town and city centres across the UK on weekend nights.
Northern Ireland man Andy Burns, working in Dundee, was the next to 'do something at night to reach out to clubbers'. In 2000 he launched Dundee Street Chaplains working in the thriving night-time of Dundee on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday's until the wee early hours!
Catching up in 2005 was England when the church in Halifax, led by Paul Blakey, started Street Angels. This initiative had an aim to offer a safe place and patrols around Halifax town centre which was, in those days, known as the Wild West of West Yorkshire. Street Pastors, a similar scheme, started around this time in London.
Fast forward to 2024 and Street Angels are now part of ROC with around 100 local projects working on the streets, at festivals, inside nightclubs, offering chaplaincy to shops and businesses and supporting the homeless community.
In Northern Ireland Street Chaplains are at work in Ballymoney, Lurgan and Newcastle. These teams are out and about on weekend nights offering support to those who are or could become vulnerable. Free hot drinks and opportunity to chat to volunteers about life, faith and issues are also key parts of the outreach Street Chaplains offer. The Newcastle team become chaplains to shops and businesses during the day.
In the past alongside Nightlight, ROC Angels have supported Club Angels working in Cookstown and Festival Angels working around community festival events in Belfast.
ROC Angels empowers local people of goodwill to work together for safer, stronger communities especially within the third spaces of society, such as: the night-time economy; music festivals and events; around pubs and clubs; within town and city centres; and local communities. If you think your community could benefit from a ROC Angels project get in touch with us!
You can read the Street Angels story for free and buy a copy of Andy Burns book 'Feet on the Street' via streetangels.org.uk/book . For more information on ROC Angels visit streetangels.org.uk
Could prayer and lollipops combat petty crime - Paul was on Premier Christian Radio chatting to Esther Higham - click here to listen.
Source - Positively Putney
We are delighted to announce we will be launching a safe space on Friday nights in Putney alongside Street Angels in April 2024. The goal of the safe space pilot is to ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds feel safe using the area at night, whether they be a resident or a customer. Through this we would free up business resources, ease pressure on local police and the NHS by creating an area to suit a variety of needs to night time users.
We are reaching out to local people who would be interested in volunteering their time. The team will consist of three groups of four each of which will work a minimum of one night a month. You will be provided with full training which includes subjects such as counselling skills, drug awareness, knowing your community and street safety. All the initial training will be provided on Saturday 16th March from 10am to 5pm being held in Putney (lunch will be provided). Speakers will include Paul Blakey, founder of Street Angels and Joanne Cox-Brown from Night Time Economy Solutions. If people cannot attend that date we will be holding another session later in the year so please sign up so that we know of your interest.
In February 2022, Wandsworth borough undertook an audit of the town centres between 6pm and 6am through a series of night drives. During this audit it became clear that Putney has the most thriving night time economy in the borough, with patrons continuing to use the area long after most of the night time venues have closed. The town centre was notably busy until 4am, despite only one venue still being open until that time. Many young people stayed on the streets buying fast-food and continuing to socialise.
Street Angels was launched in Halifax in November 2005 as a response by Churches Together and YMCA in the town to the problems around the nightlife. Violence, sexual assaults, under age and binge drinking meant the town was a no go area for many people. The project went from idea to reality in just over two weeks and had the full support of the town centre’s Police. As the project became a success very quickly representatives from other towns and cities across the UK (and beyond) visited Halifax or spoke to the founder Paul Blakey about Street Angels.
The range of people Street Angels come into contact with varies but they always offer their support: those who find themselves homeless; families and elderly people leaving the cinema and wanting someone to walk with them to their car; young people who have lost contact with friends; those who have drunk too much; those needing low level medical assistance; young ladies needing flip-flops because the high heels are impossible to walk in; young men in need of a lollipop to calm aggression or to help reduce noise as a nightclub empties; or simply those wanting to chat or ask directions. Our Putney Street Angel teams will create a better, safer night-time economy in Putney.
If you are interested in being involved in this project please fill out this very short form.
Sue Coleman share an update from Colwyn Bay Street Angels 12/02/2024
Colwyn Bay Street Angels was launched on 21st April 2023. We start @20 Station Road in the town centre and go out on Fridays from 8pm onwards. We have a core team with others joining in when they can. The team members live in the area and belong to some of the local churches. We need at least three people when we go out and we do one or two shifts depending on how many people we have on the night. If we have only have three people then we all go out together and do several patrols of the town. If we have more people then one team can go out while the other team stays @20 and provide a safe space for anyone who needs to come in. The teams often do some litter picking when they go out and often receive appreciation from people for doing this.
The commitment of the teams to go out every week regardless is a silent but powerful witness to the community. This is also important in building up relationships with people as they see us regularly and don't see us a threat. As we greet them, they will often stop to chat and tell us about themselves. Sometimes we can signpost them to places where they can find help. There are two main pubs in the town centre and we have built up good relationships with the security teams there.
Sometimes the people we meet on the street are 'worse for wear' but we can still listen to them. One of these was a man who was very drunk that we had met in the grounds of the local parish church. He told us about the relationship that he had with his parents and it wasn't good. We asked him if he would like us to pray with him and he said he would like to get closer to his parents. We met him a while later and he told us that he had had a stroke and that his parents had come to look after him. The next thing we heard was that he had died and his parents came to thank us for being so kind to him.
Another time we found a man who was slumped in the doorway of one of the vacant shops in town. We made him a coffee and tried to find out who he was and where he lived but without much success. A man who was standing nearby started telling us about his own problems so we asked if he'd like us to pray with him. He said yes and also asked us to pray for the man slumped in the doorway. After praying, this man said he knew what to do and found out the man's name and address then phoned for a taxi which he paid for and the team were then able to help get him home.
Another time we were called by one of the security staff at one of the local pubs and asked if we could help a lady who was in a bad way on a bench outside. We bought her into the safe space and cleaned her up then stayed with her until she had recovered enough to get her home. These are just a few of the significant encounters that we have had but there are many others including encouraging people in some of the local businesses and interacting with some of the local young people who love getting lollies or bottled water from the teams.
Being part of the Street Angels team is a privilege. It is a sacrifice but it's worth it and it's not hard, it's often just a matter of loving the person in front of you.
Could you be part of the Rhyl and Towyn Street Angels team in 2024...
ROC Angels News
This blog is a place for stories and news updates from within the ROC Angels family.