Ex-Home Secretary is out with NSP team
By Keith Morris
2010: Former government Home Secretary
and Norwich South Labour MP, Charles Clarke,
took time out from a busy General Election
campaign to spend an evening in the city with Norfolk Street Pastors
and was very impressed by the work he saw them do.
Mr Clarke joined a team of four Street Pastors on a recent Friday night as they began their five-and-a-half hour shift.
Mr Clarke said: “Ever since I became Home Secretary I have been very interested in the problems that arise because of late night drinking and when I first found out about Street Pastors, I thought it was a very interesting project. So when I was invited to come out with the Norwich team, I was delighted to do that.
“I think being a calming influence is very important and it is a tough issue for the volunteers how they conduct themselves in very difficult situations in a way which can be calming rather than provoking, which is one of the problems which the Police often have.
“Fundamentally, I think it is a very, very good idea and one that can draw people towards sorting out whatever problems they have got in a constructive way.”
Norfolk Street Pastors co-ordinator, Paul Rendell, explained what the team usually do: “On a typical evening we might go down to the soup run and meet people who are homeless or vulnerably housed to provide some encouragement for them and talk to them and continue relationships.
“We then move to the Timberhill area, through the Castle Gardens where there are sometimes people who drink and down to the Waterfront venue.
“Then we head for the Riverside and Prince of Wales Road area where we would spend the majority of the night. There are lots of clubbers about and we would talk to doormen and people who are out in the city having a meal.
“We are out there for anybody who wants to talk to us, but it is very much up to them. We would be keeping an eye out for people who may have a need, make ourselves available if they want it. We are prepared to help anybody whatever their situation or background.”
After spending a couple of hours with the Street Pastors, Mr Clarke said: “The most important impression I have, having seen the Street Pastors in action, is that they try to contact and establish a relationship with people who are at various stages of difficulty or even desperation in their lives to try to help them talk through how they might find a way forward which is more constructive.
“I think that that is very good and an important thing. We have been at the Norwich soup kitchen where people, almost by definition, are people who are in difficulty in their lives in some way and that is what you are trying to do.
“I gather from talking to people that that takes a very long time and there are no instant results but I think it is a very positive thing and it is a very important part of a wider provision.
Pictured above is Charles Clarke (centre) with Paul Rendell and Gail Halley.