Street pastors for Kirkcaldy

A SCHEME which sees church-goers help people in town centres at night could launch in Kirkcaldy later this year.

The Street Pastors project recruits members of local churches to patrol the streets after dark, providing practical help to revellers making their way home from a night out.

It has been successfully introduced in towns and cities across the UK through the charity Ascension Trust, since launching in London in 2003.

Now two local church members plan bring the scheme to Kirkcaldy, with hopes of establishing Street Pastors in the towns by October.

Dave Henderson, of Connect Church and Ronnie Green, of Newcraigs Church, have already met with Kirkcaldy councillor Neil Crooks and town centre manager Sunil Varu, and have received an enthusiastic response from many church members.

Around 12 people from Connect, Newcraigs, St Bryce and Dysart churches are already committed to being involved.

Dave said: "Street Pastors takes a very practical approach, and it is a great way for us to get out onto the streets and meet with young people.

"It is not about preaching to them, it's about offering our assistance and hopefully improving safety in the town."

Street pastors work in teams of four, providing a presence on busy weekend nights, from early evening until closing time.

Marked out by a blue uniform, they hand out blankets, flip flops, water, basic first aid, or wait with vulnerable people while they find taxis or contact a friend.

The street pastors also build up relationships with local licensees, shopkeepers and nightclub door staff, working with support and co-operation from the local police and council.

Dave and Ronnie hope to recruit between 16 and 20 volunteers who can commit to a monthly shift. Volunteers will then undergo the nationwide Ascension Trust training programme which ensures street pastors are trained to deal with a variety of situations.

It is hoped the Kirkcaldy scheme could be up and running by October or November, in time for the busy festive period.

Dave added: "A lot of young people may find themselves in vulnerable situations after a night out, particularly if they have been drinking a lot, and we aim to help them if we can.

"Churches have struggled to know how to connect with young people.

"This is a way of us getting out and doing something positive, because Christianity is all about helping other people."

Sunil Varu, Kirkcaldy town centre manager, said he supported the scheme, and believed it could make a difference.

"I am glad that the churches have taken ownership of this project and I think it can be made to work here in Kirkcaldy," he said.

STREET Pastors began as an inter-denominational church response to urban problems back in 2003.

There are now over 100 teams around the UK.

Each project is set up by Ascension Trust and run by a local coordinator with support from the Trust and local churches, the council and police.