Help to those ‘In Need’
The provision of a visible, independent and approachable presence on the streets during the sometimes difficult and threatening environment of a Friday and Saturday evening has a reassuring effect on those working in or enjoying the facilities provided by the night-time economy – much the same as police patrols. It is of note that STP volunteers receive a short ‘briefing’ by the police each evening, alerting them to policing and partnership initiatives in the town, as well as details any missing persons that STP patrols may come across. Such a presence also has a deterrent effect upon those who might otherwise engage in antisocial or criminal behaviour.
A Sympathetic Presence
Whilst the police in Stockton provide a consistently strong and visible presence, their focus is primarily around the prevention of crime and disorder, and dealing with related incidents.
STP volunteers offer a listening ear for those who wish to talk about matters which are troubling them – our experience has shown there are many who, despite outward appearances, are lonely and appreciate the opportunity to talk to someone who is prepared to listen without making judgement. STP volunteers have quickly been recognised throughout the town as having a caring and helpful attitude; with individuals increasingly approaching them for assistance rather than volunteers taking the initiative.
Volunteers also actively look out for people whom they perceive to be potentially vulnerable and in need of help, and approach them with a view to providing assistance. This service is recognised by police officers, food retail outlet staff, taxi drivers and licensed premises door supervisors – all of who will from time to time point volunteers in the direction of individuals who are in need of assistance.
These ‘acts of kindness’ include providing minor first aid to those in need; flip-flops to those who have had to remove fashionable footwear and are faced with a walk through wet, messy and glass-littered streets; and placing vulnerable individuals into the care of family, friends or into taxis.
Volunteers will also pick up glass bottles and sweep up broken glassware from the pavements, as well as removing other significant items of litter (i.e. used needles).
A Safe Haven
The provision of a ‘free’ café within our mobile operating unit for use by those in need or just looking for a safe haven outside of the traditional alcohol-related environment is something unique to the area, and the facility is used by an assortment of individuals ranging from the homeless through to those who have become aware of our presence and just wish to spend time with us.
Referral to Other Services
Volunteers have received awareness training in relation to a wide range of local public and charitable services, and these are listed in a leaflet provided to those considered in need. Other service providers have quickly recognised that, simply because of the hours and environment covered by STP volunteers, we are able to reach those who might not otherwise be aware of the wider support available. STP acknowledges that in the main it is only able to offer immediate help to those in need, but its ability to refer others to good and well run local public private and third sector services is extremely valuable.