HAVE you been handed a pair of flip-flops to save you from your high heels on a recent night out in Cork city?
Or have you been given a bottle of water or had a friendly chat with someone wearing a jacket with the words ‘Street Pastor’ written on the back?
If so, you are one of hundreds of people helped by the voluntary group of Street Pastors working on Cork’s streets on a Saturday night.
Since July, Street Pastors can be seen on the thoroughfares of Cork, helping anyone who appears in trouble or trying to diffuse aggressive situations.
For women finding it difficult to make their way home on high heels, Street Pastors have a ready supply of flip-flops in their knapsack.
And for anyone who has had too much to drink on their night out, the Street Pastors have bottles of water to hand out too.
In situations where volunteers come across people in a distressed mental state, they hand out cards with a series of helpline numbers which include The Samaritans, the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, Arbour House addiction services and HSE South and North Lee mental health services.
Co-ordinator of the Cork Street Pastors, David Hoey, said that on one occasion, volunteers diffused an aggressive situation by handing out lollipops among a group of people involved in a row.
He said there are currently 18 volunteers trained up as a Street Pastor for Cork. David said the group would ideally like to have up to 50 volunteers, to help those who run into any difficulties while socialising in Cork city centre.
He said: “We patrol the areas of Washington Street and Oliver Plunkett Street and we talk to people as we go along.”
To become a street pastor, applicants must:
be part of a local church,
be vetted under the garda vetting system,
be over 18 years of age,
commit to at least 12 months of service, which will mean volunteering for at least one weekend in four,
The Street Pastors organisation is under the remit of the Ascension Trust in the UK.
In July, the head of the organisation in Britain, Rev Les Isaac, came to Cork to launch the initiative here.
His work with the organisation in the UK earned him a OBE from Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year.
But the work of the organisation is only just beginning to become known in Cork.
Despite being linked to the Christian churches, David said that Street Pastors are asked not to distribute religious tracts or to preach or judge during their street shifts.
Anyone who wishes to become a Street Pastor volunteer can contact David Hoey on 086-2324484 for details.