For many years, Reading Street Pastors (RSP) have been a much-loved fixture, patrolling at night, offering a listening ear to care and help people across Reading Town Centre. Their strong link to the night time economy also led to them being called in to provide extra support during Freshers’ Week at Reading University.
Back in 2015 British Transport Police asked if Reading Street Pastorscould start up a team of Rail Pastors, to be a presence at local rail stations and care for, listen to and help anyone in need.
This daytime presence was extended during the first Lockdown, when police asked RSP if they would patrol in daylight hours, to watch out for potentially vulnerable people and signpost them to the appropriate agencies, particularly the homeless. They have provided a patrol every weekday from 10am to 2pm also on the lookout for those suffering increased anxiety, vulnerability and mental health issues as a result of the virus.
When Forbury Gardens in Reading was the tragic site of a terrorist attack, the RSP provided extra patrols in response to police invitation, and have continued to provide an increased presence after the tragic event. They were there to listen to an outpouring of grief and shock in response to the stabbing that happened that summer evening.
The Street Pastors have since returned to their nighttime patrols, and in addition, in response to Police need have extended patrols along Oxford Road to engage with sex workers and members of the public there. The Rail Pastors too are back in action, patrolling stations once weekly, and are in talks with Network Rail to offer support to people contemplating suicide but not deemed sectionable. There is also interest from aReading school to introduce a Street Pastor presence.
Reading Street Pastors relies on the generous donation of time by dedicated volunteers and financial support by patrons. Due to the pandemic, they are £15-20k down on their regular income. Additionally, they are looking for a building that could be a central hub for Street Pastors and First Stop who currently operate out of the Minster church. They envisage an accessible space on the high street with cafe facilities and music venue potential.
Can you help?
- Can you volunteer your time as a Street Pastor? Email Sally Leonard who co-ordinates SPR at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Can you give financially toward the work of Reading Street Pastors? Donate here
- Are you able to provide a building from which the team can operate, or do you know someone who may be able to help? They are looking for somewhere central, ideally Broad Street or Friar Street. Email email@example.com