Angels provide Christian compassion in Year of Mercy

Boscombe Angels in the Dorset town's precinct
Boscombe Angels in the Dorset town's precinct

Among the initiatives taking place for the Year of Mercy in Dorset is the Boscombe Angels. This is a group of volunteers who offer a practical caring Christian presence on the streets of Boscombe, particularly around the precinct. The project was set up by Churches Together in Boscombe in 2010 and teams of volunteers are out on the streets every Friday night and also on Saturdays when the town’s nightclub (capacity 1800) is open.

“Parts of Boscombe are experiencing difficulties, largely caused by a deterioration in the housing stock,” explains Kate Harris, one of the organisers of the project. “The Council are tackling issues with a Regeneration Scheme, but poverty, substance abuse and rough sleeping are features of the area. The Churches' response was to get out onto the streets doing our bit for the community.”

Networking and training

There are at present 14 volunteers in the Boscombe Angels, half of them from Corpus Christi Church in the town. They are trained in Street Safety and Basic First Aid.  Parishioners of the Jesuit parish also offer support – not only in supplying volunteers, but also by providing clothing and finance when there is an appeal. Another element of the project is a group of pray-ers who pray for the volunteers while they are out and for certain situations that they come across. One of the churches, Boscombe Baptist Church, opens its doors from 10pm until midnight and offers the use of a shower as well as food, listening and supporting.  Another church, Richmond Park Church, has a bus on the precinct where the volunteers are trained in supporting substance abusers.  By networking together and with the Council, they know what agencies can best support the needs of those they meet.

“From 9pm until late on every Friday night, volunteers are out helping and supporting wherever they can,” Kate Harris says.” They listen, care, and provide for those who find themselves vulnerable for whatever reason. It can include rough sleepers and those with addictions but it may also be those who find themselves separated from friends late at night - perhaps sometimes with no means to get home. In this Year of Mercy more people are expected to find themselves homeless and Boscombe Angels are preparing for this by further training on how to bring Christ’s love and mercy to all.”

Overcoming issues through faithBoscombe Angels prepare to go out on the streets

Boscombe Angels were involved in the Rough Sleepers Service which is held in early December. It provided a time to remember and pray for those who have died especially three local people who died on the streets during 2015. Kate says it was especially moving to hear two people speak of how they were able to overcome their issues through coming to faith.

One Boscombe resident wrote on their Facebook page: “I walked through Boscombe late last night on my way home. It was so noisy and quite scary, one man was carrying a baseball bat, arguments happening etc, as I approached KFC there they were the lovely Boscombe angels chatting to folk and been so calm, I immediately felt relieved and safer to carry on home due to their presence, amazing team of people, God bless them...”

More volunteers are constantly required by Boscombe Angels. They say that a balance of young and old, male and female volunteers provides them with a format that presents no threat to those they meet. Find out more.