Helping the streets around Clapham Junction become a friendlier, safer place to be.
It’s 10.30pm on a Saturday night and the pubs and bars around Clapham Junction are full to bursting, people spilling onto the pavements even on the coldest nights of the year. At St Mark’s, the Night Pastor team are getting ready to go out on the streets for a night out of their own! They head out a Friday or Saturday night to offer help or just a friendly face to those who need it - from making sure a girl on her own doesn’t get into an illegal minicab, to providing assistance those who have lost their way or had too much to drink.
Armed with rucksacks full of ‘goodies’ - bottles of water, ‘spikeys’ (plastic tops that fit onto bottles to prevent drinks from being spiked), bus maps, flip-flops for the girls whose high heels have become too painful at the end of a long night, and lollipops just for fun - Night Pastors have been a familiar sight around the streets of Clapham Junction since September 2011.
Wearing distinctive blue bibs, they are easy to spot as ‘safe' people to approach on the busy streets. Locals and bouncers in the bars and clubs have now become used to the night pastors’ presence, but many are still curious about why they are doing it. Our reply is simple:
‘It’s because we care for the safety of our community. We want people on a night out to have a great time – to be able to enjoy themselves but also to be secure’.
A recent email from a guy who watched night pastors in action on the streets said: ‘I think you all do an amazing job. I've witnessed how much care you take over those who are intoxicated. The risks that you all could encounter is high and the fact you are willing to take those risks to make sure people are OK is brilliant. Thank you!’
Ellen, who was a night pastor at the outset, says: ‘I love seeing people get home safely as a result of help we have given. This happens every time we’re out. Whether it’s putting someone on the right bus, organising a taxi or actually doing the whole journey with them to their front door, I love that feeling of just knowing they are safe. One night, two of our night pastors took someone all the way to North London using night buses the whole way!’
Another highlight for the night pastors is the conversations they get to have with people out on the streets. Night Pastor, Madeleine, describes them as ‘sometimes amazing, sometimes crazy’ - but is always surprised by how much people just want to talk and be honest about what’s happening in their lives.
If you ask the Night Pastors, they certainly feel that having a team on the streets every weekend is making a real difference. The police and ambulance services have also noted its positive impact on the area. They believe, through small encounters, the streets are becoming a friendlier, safer place to be. Another night pastor called Chris describes one such encounter: ‘As the night drew to a close at 2.30am, I spotted a young lady half limping up Battersea Rise, her four-inch heels having clearly taken their toll. I walked over to her and offered a pair of flip-flops from my rucksack. ‘Thank you so much’, she said with a relieved smile, ‘How much do I owe you?’ It was so nice to see another smile when I said ‘Oh, nothing!’