August 31 2014 Latest news:
Sam Blewett, Reporter
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
A regular sight with their flip-flops and lollipops, the Street Pastors have been caring for the inebriated in Romford for seven years and are now patrolling the less-likely territory of Hornchurch.
News that the Christian organisation is spreading its net was announced at an event attended by the Rev Les Isaac OBE, founder of the initiative, as well as councillors and leading lights in the area’s police force.
Monica Abdala, a pastor in Havering for seven years and the borough’s co-ordinator for four, spoke to the Recorder about her work and the horrors that drink can bring.
“Some of the drinkers are unable to speak because they are so drunk they can’t remember their names and often they have separated from their friends,” she said.
“If their friends are in better condition than they are, they go into the club and they leave their drunk friend out on their own. We just find them sitting on the floor or being sick on a bench or crying.
“They are all by themselves and they often don’t know where they are.”
This is where a group from the 28 volunteers in Havering that patrol every Friday, come to the rescue.
They will sit with the worse-for-wear, ensure they come to no harm and give them water and coffee to sober them up. The pastors are not always met with open arms, but they carry a special gadget to break the ice.
“We give lollipops, which act as diffusers. We unexpectedly show up with a lollipop and it distracts them from their argument,” said Mrs Abdala.
“We also carry flip-flops because the girls go out in high heels looking beautiful, but, two hours later, they are too tipsy to walk in them, so they take them off. To prevent them hurting themselves on broken glass or mucky stuff, we give them flip-flops.”
Mrs Abdala claims that drink-related 999 call-outs have decreased since the pastors began patrolling in Romford.
However, London Ambulance Service figures show that alcohol-related call-outs in Havering reached 1,674 in 2012-13 compared to 1,078 in 2007-08.
This rise could have been far more dramatic without the efforts of the volunteers who wait with the inebriated before they are collected by friends or family, thus sometimes avoiding the need for an ambulance.
“If you call an ambulance, it’s just a waste of time. They can deal with more serious, important things,” Mrs Abdala said.
Rev Isaac said that the success in Romford had been vast, adding that all the door staff are familiar with the pastors and will go to them for help. “It’s become integral to the night-time economy,” he said.
Their arrival in Hornchurch may have surprised some as the area’s nightlife is seen as far calmer than Romford’s.
Mrs Abdala said the move was a “preventative measure”.
“People still get drunk – it’s no comparison to Romford, but we are seeing more younger people come to Hornchurch and drinking,” she said.
Rev Isaac added that the police do a good job and the pastors’ presence is because “prevention is better than a cure”.
Council leader Cllr Steven Kelly (Emerson Park) praised the volunteers’ work and welcomed them to Hornchurch.
He said: “I think they are excellent. They give a good service – they are particularly good at getting people safe and looked after.”
Mrs Abdala doesn’t want the pastors’ presence to spoil revellers’ fun but to prevent things going awry: “People can drink if they want. We don’t say you shouldn’t drink, but I think people need to drink responsibly.”