polo shirt clip art Street Pastors watch out for the vulnerable
Chico >> The young man lay unconscious on the sidewalk. His cellphone and wallet were visible through his pockets. He was alone and vulnerable.
walked up to him but he was so intoxicated we couldn wake him up. We called the police for a welfare check and waited until they arrived and called an ambulance. We were thankful we found him because the next person probably would have stolen his things or worse. We come across that kind of situation often, said Pam Easterly. These men and women, who range in age from 25 to 80 years old, come from all walks of life and a dozen different Christian denominations.
They are the Chico Street Pastors.
a unique blend of people. With all the different denominations there could be disagreements but our differences don come up because we all have one common focus to serve the public, said Easterly, Street Pastors coordinator.
The program was pioneered in London in 2003 when 15 men and three women took to the streets to engage with people, care for them, listen to them and help them. There are now 11,000 trained street pastors in 270 cities in the United Kingdom.
There are also street pastors working in cities in Australia, Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Ireland, Nigeria and the West Indies. there are three street pastor groups, two in Maine and the local group, which began in 2013.
Concrete and tangible
started because we wanted to do something concrete and tangible to love our city. One of the biggest issues was downtown, a concern about those on the street at night the homeless, transient, and people frequenting the bars and pubs people who could use a friend, some help, a prayer or comfort, said Andrew Burchett, board chair and pastor of Neighborhood Church.
All volunteers participate in a 40 hour, $400 training course that covers mediation techniques, street pastor conduct, roles, responsibilities and safety.
No local street pastors have ever been harmed and worldwide there have been less than 10 incidents of street pastors being hurt, according to Burchett.
Local street pastors patrol what they refer to as proper, the area between First to Ninth and Wall to Salem streets. They wear uniforms: blue ball caps and polo shirts along with jackets emblazoned with Pastors so they are easily identifiable.
first experience out on the street was that people would see a uniform and run from us thinking we were a law enforcement patrol. There was a learning curve but now people know we are someone who can help, said Easterly.
Out on the streets the volunteers watch for people who are alone, in situations that may not be safe, are drunk or barefoot.
year we passed out 300 pairs of flip flops. Girls go out in high heels and by the end of the night their feet hurt or they too drunk to walk in the heels. They take off their shoes and just go barefoot. The street is not anywhere you want to put your bare feet so we offer them flip flops. It a nice segue into conversation, said Easterly.
The street pastors also carry bottles of water to give people and basic first aid materials.
A valuable presence
While they help anyone in need, the volunteers keep an extra watchful eye out for intoxicated young women. The bars had closed and a small group of young women were on the street. A man was trying to convince one of the inebriated young women to leave with him. Several street pastors walked over, passed out lollipops to the girls and began chatting. Ultimately, the man lost interest and walked away.
The next weekend one of the young women from that group told the street pastors she had seen the man picture in the newspaper earlier in the week. He been arrested for rape, said Burchett.
girl believed that because the street pastors had been there to talk with her cousin that her cousin was saved from sexual assault, said Burchett.
Although the street pastors do pray with and for people who ask them to, they are not a ministry. not out there proselytizing. We just there to help make downtown a safer, more peaceful, welcoming place. We just there to watch out for people in compromising situations, letting them know someone is looking out for them and that we care for and love them right where they are, he said.
After three years the street pastors are well known among local bar employees, the public and law enforcement, who appreciate their work.