More pastors hit the streets as support scheme extended

THEY have already come to the aid of hundreds of weary revellers trying to make their way home after a night out in the Capital.

Now, a new team of Street Pastors – dubbed the “flip-flop angels” – are set to lend a hand in other parts of the city as the weekend initiative is expanded.

A group of volunteers, all Christian church-goers, already assists party-goers in the Greenside area by distributing flip-flops to women struggling with high heels, and foil blankets for the cold, as well as helping people find transport home.

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The expansion, which will see a new team descend on Lothian Road and Corstorphine Road next year, is being supported by Perth-based charity The Ascension Trust (Scotland) – the umbrella body for Street Pastors.

Nathan Lewis, 27, a pastor at Centrepoint Church in the city and a former Street Pastor, said: “I think it’s great it has been able to be extended. I had very few negative interactions with people when I was a Street Pastor. People were very friendly.

“It’s a great service that I hope is very beneficial to our city’s nightlife.”

Wearing distinctive uniforms, the flip-flop angels pick up bottles and broken glass, administer first aid and chat to passers-by, offering phone numbers for homeless charities, social services and churches.

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The scheme, officially launched in Edinburgh in March 2009, already sees volunteers from several churches in Edinburgh gathering outside the Omni Centre at the top of Leith Walk on Friday evenings.

The Ascension Trust trains volunteers who patrol town centres on Friday and Saturday nights.

They talk to people and aim to provide a calming presence in a bid to quash any trouble and make the areas safer.

Sandy Gunn, a church minister and a director of the trust, said: “We hope to have the new team in place in the first half of next year.

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“Normally we have a minimum of 12 in a team who work on a rota system, with a minimum of four on each night.”

Although they are largely supported by churches, the Street Pastors stress that they are not “God squads” looking for vulnerable people to convert to Christianity.

A total of 412 Street Pastors currently patrol the centres of 13 towns and cities in Scotland.

The Street Pastors movement began in Jamaica, where churches joined forces to take their values to the streets and tackle the growth of gang culture, guns, drugs and violence.

The scheme’s expansion is being helped by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, which recently awarded the charity a £4182 grant.

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