Street pastors there to help those in need across Inverness city centre
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AN integral part of the city centre night-time economy are the Inverness Street Pastors who are on hand to provide help wherever it is needed.
They are a group of trained volunteers from a number of local churches who care about their community and regularly patrol areas such as the city centre, Merkinch, South Kessock and Hilton during the day, evening and night.
Co-ordinator Mark Hadfield, who is 52 and originally from Yorkshire, said the group was originally set up in 2007 and their first patrol took place in January 2008.
They recruited around 24 volunteers in the first year and he said it involved a lot of work getting things in place beforehand, including a total of 12 days training for each volunteer.
He said: “Street Pastors is a national initiative but each area that does it sets themselves up as their local charity.”
The group currently has around 40 volunteers of all ages, the lower age limit is 18 years old, and the oldest member recently turned 80.
Mr Hadfield said the group’s management team was drawn from four of the city’s churches – Ness Bank, the cathedral, Junction Church and Inverness Community Church.
He said: “It’s a church-led initiative and there are 20 churches involved at the moment. We care for other people and our communities which is an important part of the Christian faith.”
Night-time patrols begin at 10pm and usually continue until around 3am to 4am when the last premises has closed and the city centre has emptied.
Mr Hadfield said their role was listening to those in need, caring and helping to ensure people were safe and well.
He said: “Quite often they want to talk things through. Our pastors are trained listeners as well as having first aid and mental health awareness training. We do a lot of listening and a lot of practical care and help.”
Ways in which volunteers provide help could be as simple as providing a woman without shoes with a pair of flip flops or helping someone who has become separated from their group.
Mr Hadfield said: “We are looking out for people who are vulnerable. We make sure they’ve got a good plan for getting home and not being harrassed.”
They work closely with city centre door staff and are in radio contact with them – they may be contacted if they are concerned about someone who has left licensed premises.