LATE-NIGHT revellers in Southend will soon be offered a safe place to go if they miss the last train home.
Southend Street Pastors, a church-based group which offers help and support to clubbers who wind up the worse for wear after a night out, has announced moves to offer a “safe space” in the town centre from September.
It won’t have beds, but will offer seating and shelter until the first trains start running in the morning.
The last c2c train leaves Southend Central station at 11.14pm and while Greater Anglia’s last service pulls out of Southend Victoria at 11pm, so the service will be offered to anyone who misses their train home, not just clubbers.
Del Thomas, who leads the street pastor team, said: “Plenty of people get caught out by the fact the last train is so early.
“I would say we come across a family or someone else like that at least once a fortnight. They tend not to have been drinking, but they then become vulnerable.
“They may have had a really good time until then, and we don’t want it ruined by them missing the train.
“We want people to come to Southend and think they will be cared for.
“The police and council agree there really is a need for this. It means crime will fall and the economy will not suffer.”
Mr Thomas came up with the idea after he came across three teenagers, one them pregnant, who were facing a night on the street after missing their train to Tilbury. He described the encounter as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
The location of the “safe space” has yet to be announced, but it will be in a town centre building, and only available to people referred there by a street pastor or someone manning the town centre SOS bus.
The venture has only been made possible because the street pastors have now recruited a dozen extra trained volunteers.
The extra pastors will also mean the group will now extend its patrols to take in Friday nights as well as Saturdays.
Southend Council’s Community Safety Partnership, has welcomed the news as it says it will help its bid to retain the town’s Purple Flag status as a safe place to have a night out.
Between January and May this year, the street pastors reckon they have prevented 21 fights, calmed down five domestic disputes and helped five depressed and suicidal people.
They have also given out about 100 hot drinks and 50 hot meals to rough-sleepers.
Mr Thomas said: “Southend Street Pastors is really capturing peoples’ imaginations.
“They really want to help their town in this way. Another six have said they want training, too.
“For me it’s great, because it enables us to do so much more.
“Nationally, when street pastors go out, the average crime rate falls by about 50 per cent.
“Crime will fall here, too. We deal with low-level antisocial behaviour and stop it happening because, unlike the police, we can spend an hour with someone, whereas the police have to go on to the next situation.”