Newport's Nightlife Guardians Celebrate Funding
The friendly faces on the streets of Newport who defuse trouble and help keep revellers safe on Friday and Saturday nights are among the 90 projects celebrating a cash injection from the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent.
The Street Pastors in Newport have been awarded £3,000 from Gwent PCC Jeff Cuthbert's Partnership Fund grant scheme which is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. This includes money seized from organised crime and convicted drug dealers who have been ordered to pay back their ill-gotten gains.
The Street Pastors will spend the money on purchasing new equipment and uniforms for their volunteers. Street pastors are trained volunteers who patrol in teams of men and women, usually from 10 pm to 4 am on a Friday and Saturday night. They care for, listen to and help people who are out on the streets.
Working alongside the police, their role includes assisting those who are in a distressed state or have become detached from their friends to get home, handing out bottles of water and foil blankets, administering first aid, and even providing flip flops to women walking the streets barefoot. Their calming influence plays a crucial role in preventing crime and disorder in Newport city centre on weekends.
A full time Church Minister by day, 47 year old Phil Jones is the Street Pastor Coordinator for Newport and is one of the volunteers who go out once a month on a rotational basis on Friday and Saturday nights.
"I love it and every other person who goes out on patrol is the same," says Phil, who was heavily involved in establishing Newport Street Pastors eight years ago.
"If you haven't got the heart for caring and listening to people at silly o'clock in the rain - then you wouldn't do it. It is a passion. It's basically Christians from the area who care for their community and help whenever they can. The definition of pastoring is to care and look after people and our main aim is to do exactly that.
We are absolutely loved by people on the street and I can honestly say I have never felt threatened. A lot of people ask us what we do and we get into conversations. The amount of support is incredible and we have never had an incident where a street pastor has been hurt or verbally abused or threatened in Newport. It's down to the training we receive. We are trained by experts on what to do or not to do."
Apart from looking out for the welfare of those who may be at risk of harm, the Street Pastors also keep an eye out for potentially violent or dangerous situations and are able to alert the police to such incidents. The presence of Street Pastors has helped to diffuse tension where fights seemed likely to break out.
"We all know what the pressures on our emergency services are and we alleviate some of that by providing support," says Phil.
"We deal with a lot of vulnerable people and what we find is that people drink at home before they come into town so the actual need for what we do isn't until late evening to the early hours of the morning. We can administer first aid if need be and we look after vulnerable young women who have ended up on their own and also people who have had a few too many drinks. It is incredible how many young ladies we see who have started the night with a group and have then ended up alone with no purse or phone and sometimes no shoes. We then call them a taxi or their family members if need be to make sure they are picked up and get home safely. We have a very good relationship with local taxi firms and we never leave anybody on their own. We also alert the Police and the Ambulance service to incidents if needed. We are basically an additional pair of eyes and ears on the street."
According to Phil, the funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner is vital for the Street Pastors to carry on with their work.
"Like any other voluntary organisation, we wouldn't be able to function without contributions like this," he says.
"Initially we all had to pay for our own uniforms and training which worked out as just over £300 per Street Pastor. My aim is that volunteers don't have to pay out of their own pockets. The first aid kits, flip flops, lollypops and the foil blankets all cost a lot of money. So without any money coming in, we wouldn't be able to do the job. And the more funding we get, the more people we can train up and the more teams we can have out there on the streets."