Edinburgh Street Assist: We meet the people who assist thousands and save lives during nights out in Edinburgh

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An Edinburgh charity which helps people who are spiked or intoxicated on nights out assist thousands of abandoned and vulnerable people on the streets

Every weekend hundreds of people flood into Edinburgh city centre for a night out – but not everyone is as lucky to end the night with a kebab and taxi home. Many young people are left on the streets intoxicated by alcohol and, with no means of getting home, they are simply stranded.

Street Assist is Edinburgh’s operation night-guard. From 10pm to 4am the charity is there to aid unsafe and sometimes life-threatening situations where people have taken a fun night out too far. Those that are spiked and abandoned on the Capital's side streets are safely taken in by the charity as they provide trained medical assistance.

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Founder of the organisation Neil Logan said: “We are saving lives and it’s through my passion for helping people that maintains my drive to keep Street Assist going. The volunteers really do keep me going. I take pride in myself that I know all their names and what they do. We are a family.”

We joined Street Assist while they helped people on nights out in Edinburgh's Cowgate (Photo: Wullie Marr Photography)We joined Street Assist while they helped people on nights out in Edinburgh's Cowgate (Photo: Wullie Marr Photography)
We joined Street Assist while they helped people on nights out in Edinburgh's Cowgate (Photo: Wullie Marr Photography)

As many as 180 resilient volunteers from the age of 18 to 79 work unsociable hours every Friday and Saturday to help those vulnerable on a night out in Edinburgh get home safely. The majority of the volunteers are young aspiring paramedic and police officer students, who most often put themselves at risk to assist their own peer group.

One volunteer, Euan McGhee is an 18-year-old paramedic student from Edinburgh. He said: “Everyone involved in Street Assist are genuine people who just want to help the public have a safer time. I find it very rewarding and it means a lot to me that I am able to help our service users when they are in a situation where they require our aid, as well as knowing that we are always there to help people in Edinburgh.”

I worked alongside Street Assist on a bitter cold, busy Friday night along the cobbled streets of Edinburgh to see the seriousness of street safety, in addition to the work that they do. The night started at 9pm where the volunteers gathered into their assigned groups, prepared Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and departed into individual vehicles.

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The teams relied on constant communication as to their whereabouts, who they were assisting, and the severity of the situation for each individual. At the beginning of the night we scanned the streets looking for anyone in potential danger, speaking to bouncers, handing out business cards and engaging with the public to make them aware of the charity's services if needed later on in the night.

Street Assist volunteers in uniform before heading out to assist the public on a Friday night.Street Assist volunteers in uniform before heading out to assist the public on a Friday night.
Street Assist volunteers in uniform before heading out to assist the public on a Friday night.

By 1am the clubs started to fill up and the streets began to pour with youngsters who were already intoxicated with alcohol due to normalised ‘pre-drinking’. Our team was soon called to an emergency situation to aid a young man who was struggling both mentally and physically on a side street in Cowgate. One of the charity’s team members, who was trained in mental health, calmed the person in order to make them feel safe enough to let us take him to the hospital for a medical examination.

Eventually, the man felt comfortable enough to be taken to the emergency room at the Royal Infirmary Hospital where he was taken care of from there. The team immediately returned to assist the public along Cowgate where the streets had become extremely crowded as people struggled to find their way back home. Dozens of young women struggled to walk in their heels, and some transport services wouldn’t allow people to travel due their excessive alcohol consumption. There were numerous groups of young men picking fights with one another, and Uber services were heaving with people keen to get home.

At 4am the streets started to clear as people made their way home and all the volunteer teams were sent back to base at St Mary’s Cathedral where everyone organised the PPE and returned safely home. It was apparent that street safety is a nightly issue, and if it wasn’t for Street Assist accommodating those vulnerable repeatedly every weekend, then the NHS and Police would be under even more of a significant strain.

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A staggering 66.3 per cent of women in Edinburgh don’t feel safe walking at night alone in Edinburgh, and many students feel ‘in danger’ when exiting the clubs after a night out.

University of Edinburgh student, Alaina, said: “ The biggest thing for me is the walk home, as I’m always hyper aware of everyone else on the street. Even if no one approaches you, there’s just a sense that if they do, then it’ll be a negative interaction.” Another 20-year-old student studying astro-physics, Abigail Charlton, said: “I feel on edge sometimes, especially when the streets aren’t lit. I have a tendency to check behind me every so often just to make sure. If anyone walks towards me, my heart always races.”

If you need help on a night out in Edinburgh you can call Street Assist on 07708351200.

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