At the Stirling Street Pastors Roadshow last night, we discussed their relationship with the drinks industry. No, Street Pastors does not have a ‘view’ on minimum pricing, for example. They are there to mop up (in various ways) the effects of over-indulgence in alcohol and/or drugs amongst partying people, not to become a pressure group about social issues. Indeed, their effectiveness depends on building good relationships with bar and club staff, and they are really appreciated by them. In Aberdeen, they bought Street Pastors a £40,000 truck to use as a safe space for those they are helping.
But inevitably, Street Pastors get involved with agencies who are trying to deal with causes rather than symptoms. There’s a difference between addiction and having a good night out, and they encounter the effects of both on the streets at night. How do you negotiate these very complex issues? You want to be there non-judgementally, serving those in need, and to do this you must befriend those who make it possible for them to be ‘in need’, by selling them too much drink. After a while, you must, surely, want to do something one stage back – education, even legal controls. Actually, there are now ‘School Pastors’, who help to explore life choices with young people, so they are supporting the education side.
I was impressed by how the attitude of the Street Pastors was not, ‘Don’t drink – it’s evil’ in a sort of Victorian Temperance Society mode, but rather, ‘Have a good – but safe – night out’. Much more like the way Jesus chilled out with the wine-bibbers.