Men are just as vulnerable as women on the night-time scene in the city.
If you’ve been out in Norwich city centre on a Saturday night, you may well have encountered the City Pastors.
This group of (mostly) retired people wearing high-vis jackets hand out flip flops, chocolate and provide a listening ear for anyone who wants to talk.
Most importantly, they support vulnerable men and women who may not be able to help themselves through inebriation, drug use or other factors.
So why would you give up your Saturday nights to walk along Prince of Wales Road helping the pubbers and clubbers of Norwich to stay safe?
This is the story of Penny Jones and the Norfolk Street Partnership volunteers.
Who are the City Pastors?
We are a group of Christian volunteers who meet up and walk around an area of the city popular with the night-time economy in Norwich. We have a prayer team at the base and a group who walk around the city. We are part of the Norfolk Street Partnership which is a Christian charity supported by around 25 Norfolk churches.
What is the purpose of City Pastors?
Our main purpose is to look out for anyone who is vulnerable. Men are just as vulnerable as women. If someone is vulnerable, we get them to a safe place and make sure they are OK. We can take them to the SOS Bus which has medical facilities or the Safe Haven area which has first aiders on board. Sometimes we ring their parents.
Why flip flops?
We hand out flip flops for girls who can no longer walk in their shoes… we hand out chocolate to calm any tension. We also hand out warm drinks to homeless people living on the street. Our aim is to provide a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on for anyone in need.
What area of the city do you cover?
We start at 10pm and walk along Prince of Wales Road, we also walk by Riverside and the railway station before coming back down Prince of Wales Road which is our main focus as that’s where most of the pubs and clubs are. We finish around 3am. Our prayer team stay at base providing prayer and spiritual support to the Street team and those in need of support. The teams are in contact via mobile phone.
When did the City Pastors start?
We started 11 years ago and we have noticed in that time that the night time economy is changing. Young people are more responsible than they used to be due to a variety of factors.
Internet dating has definitely helped. Young people want to make a good impression when they meet someone for the first time so they are looking after themselves more and perhaps drinking less. The attitude of the police and the nightclub staff is very helpful and they are very supportive.
Why do you like volunteering for the Norfolk street partnership?
For me personally, it’s my frontline bit. I get my jacket on and I feel as if I have permission to talk to people. It’s different for everybody. I’m an introvert, so this is how I do my frontline job. Some of us have grandchildren out on the night-time scene and we want to make sure young people get home safely.
Do you get any feedback?
We were out recently and someone gave us £10 and said ‘you’re doing a great job’. That is quite rare but it’s nice to hear.
Norfolk Street Partnership teams are helping to make night time in Norwich a much safer place according to the local police chiefs and have been so successful they have doubled their time on the streets.” Network Norwich & Norfolk
Norfolk Street Partnership can provide maturity, experience, understanding and patience to the sometimes troubled individuals and difficult circumstances they encounter. They have made a difference and we are very fortunate in Norwich to have these dedicated volunteers.” Police Inspector Peter Walsh
They are an essential part of the night scene, very helpful and good to have around.”Dale, doorman at Optic club
It’s a good idea. They help to bring a bit of peace and common sense to the street.”Gary, doorman at karaoke club Sing-Sing
How often do the City Pastors volunteer?
What do you need to do to become a volunteer?
For more information:
Images: Network Norfolk website.