Glasgow City Council

Pensioner Pounds City Streets 'til 4am Helping Those in Need

Published 17.11.17

Street Pastors Margaret Reeves and Linda McKendrick Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Come rain, ice or snow, pensioner Margaret Reeves can be found in Glasgow city centre until 4am on Sundays helping vulnerable people.

The 67-year-old grandmother is one of Glasgow's 96 Street Pastors who spend their Friday and Saturday nights helping those in need.

Dressed in their distinctive caps and blue jackets with "Street Pastors" emblazoned on the back, the teams of four walk the city centre offering assistance to the vulnerable.

The volunteers, from several different churches, carry first aid kits, sick bags, thermal blankets, water and warm socks. They are also equipped with radios to contact Glasgow's CCTV operators if they need support from the police or ambulance service. But more often than not, their main roles are as carers, calmers and comforters to people in distress or those who are worse for wear after a night out.

The Street Pastors group is a charity which works in tandem with the emergency services and Community Safety Glasgow. They do everything from reuniting lost friends to providing warm cups of tea and a safe haven for anyone vulnerable.

They also collect, and safely dispose of, glasses and bottles which have been discarded in the street by party-goers. And they hand out flip flops to tired females who've removed their high heels after a long night dancing and are walking barefoot on freezing streets where they could cut their feet on stones or broken glass. In September alone, the Pastors gave out 400 pairs of free flip flops and safely disposed of 500 bottles and glasses.

They also helped more than 1000 people - escorting some, to the Safe Zone in St George's Tron Church in Nelson Mandela Square where trained first aiders are on hand if needed and toast and a warming cup of tea in a safe place are offered without judgement. The Pastors also help people contact their friends or families to collect them if they can't get home by themselves and provide charging facilities for people caught out by flat mobile phone batteries.

The volunteers receive training before patrolling the city centre - including some from Police Scotland - and there is always a mix of males and females in each team.

Margaret, who was a support worker in a residential rehab unit before retiring, has been a Street Pastor for 10 years. Inspired by her faith, she volunteers from 10pm to 4am one Saturday a month.

Margaret said: "We could write a book about everything the Street Pastors have seen.

"People come out for a good night out, but sometimes they don't realise how the alcohol has affected them until they leave the nightclubs. They don't feel the cold and sometimes they don't know where they are. They can be sick or fall over  - sometimes taxis won't take them, because they are too drunk. Some sit down and drift off to sleep, and, in the winter if they weren't found, they could develop hypothermia. Sometimes people are really upset because they've lost their friends, bags or mobile phones.

"We see people from all walks of life and all ages - not just the young. But we are not there to judge people - just to help them. It is a great experience, we have a laugh and a joke with a lot of people. I really consider it a blessing.

"Most people are really grateful for our help. When we manage to contact parents to come and collect their sons or daughters, they are always really grateful that they are safe."

Before leaving home for her Saturday shift, Margaret makes up 25 filled rolls then offers them to any rough sleepers and beggars she meets in the city centre.

Many of her colleagues also do the same - donating sweets and biscuits to those less fortunate. They also ensure people are aware of the Glasgow City Mission Night Shelter and other services on offer and on occasion have walked people there to get a bed for the night.

Councillor Jennifer Layden, Glasgow City Council's City Convener for Equalities and Human Rights, praised the volunteer Street Pastors saying their selfless work was invaluable.

She said: "It is truly amazing that people are happy to sacrifice their weekends and go out into the cold and wet until the early hours to help others. The commitment and dedication of the Street Pastors is inspiring.

"Glasgow's new draft City Charter seeks to encourage people to get involved in their communities and look out for neighbours, friends and fellow Glaswegians who may need a little extra support. We all have something we can contribute to our communities, whether it is by volunteering in some way or simply by doing some shopping for a sick or elderly neighbour.

"And as Margaret explains, those who volunteer can get as much out of it as those who receive help. I can't commend the work of the Street Pastors enough!"

Caption: Volunteer Street Pastors Margaret Reeves and Linda McKendrick give up their weekends to work into the early hours in all weathers helping those in need.

 

Published 17.11.17

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