Erin has been instrumental with Street Angels and along with Larchfield House will be having a defibrillator installed to support the local community around Larchfield House in the coming weeks.
Read Erin’s Story:
Windsor Street Angels: My story
My name is Erin, I am 20 years old and I have been a HCA with Larchfield House since May 2021. I have been asked to write about one of my volunteering duties that I do outside of Larchfield House.
Windsor Street Angels is a charity that comes under the umbrella of Windsor Christian Action which consists of four projects which help support the Windsor community in different ways. These are Windsor Homeless Project, Foodshare, More than a Shelter and of course Windsor Street Angels. There is also another project that the Windsor Street Angel coordinator is part of called Windsor Community Defibrillator Partnership.
We patrol the streets on a Friday and Saturday night to protect and serve the night time community alongside a range of partners such as Thames Valley Police (TVP), South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), door staff, managers, CCTV townlink, council and more. We all work together to protect and care for those who are vulnerable at night. On a Saturday night we also have a Safety Hub where we have a minimum of two angels and a police officer to create a safe space for individuals or small groups to come and utilise to their needs such as homeless coming in from the cold, someone waiting for a taxi, to something more extreme such as someone needing to report and make a statement to the police about what they have been through. Our shifts start at 10pm and should finish at 4am but we only go home when we have deemed everyone is safe, so some nights we don’t finish until 6am. But we rather go home late ensuring everyone is cared for than leave early and then someone becomes a victim, alone without support because we were not there.
I first found out about Windsor Street Angels from a fellow college student. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted to know more. I was 17 at the time so I had to wait until I was 18 to join. I joined in March 2019, and have loved every second of it since. When I started, I went through training and an observer period where I’d go on shift as an observer to learn what an angel does and get involved to become a qualified Street Angel. Training was provided for free and once qualified we get training on a regular basis and any training we feel we need, we get as anything to improve our skills and keep people safe is worth it, it currently includes:
- First aid – which is provided by community first responders from South Central Ambulance Service (CFRs from SCAS). We use first aid most shifts so we need to know how to deal with what we see safely.
- Understanding CCTV – this is because we communicate with CCTV every shift so understanding what they can do for us and their scope of practice is important to know.
- Conflict Management – we see and deal with unhappy people on a regular basis and we are given techniques to calm people down and be able to identify when it’s best appropriate to use those skills or step back and radio for assistance.
- Observational Skills – every shift we watch the crowds, we pick up on small details that no one else will see. A girl who looks uncomfortable, someone who appears aggressive, someone unsteady and so much more.
- Working with Homeless – homeless are human beings who have been through some awful traumas in their life and so need a little extra support. It’s important to have a little insight before working with them so you are prepared and also knowing what works for them more. Some don’t like to interact with anyone whereas others are very appreciative of us and will spend time talking to us. Also to add, anyone can become homeless, no one thinks it will happen to them or think they are anywhere near it, but we never know what our lives have in store. It is also not as simple as giving them a home and they will be fine. For some, their traumas mean that being housed is too distressing for them, too quiet and overwhelming.
- Vulnerability Awareness – this goes along with observational skills, being able to recognise those who are vulnerable or in a vulnerable position.
- Drugs Awareness – This can include alcohol, spikes and more. Recognising when someone has taken something is important so we can best care for them, but we never judge someone whether they have taken something or not. We still give them the best care and treatment because they are human, needing support and vulnerable.
Windsor Street Angels was started by a PCSO called David Bullock who recognised a safeguarding issue with the night time community. He wanted to provide the homeless with support during the night as that can be a fragile time for those on the streets so wanted to put something in place to care for them. This also provided an opportunity to help those who have come out to have fun but have ended up being vulnerable and at risk. These people include someone needing a pair of flip flops because their feet hurt or someone who lost their belongings to someone victim of assault or predatory behaviour in need of support or first aid. Let’s hear what David has to say about what he started. “Windsor Street Angels is an amazing community initiative which provides invaluable support to the vulnerable within Windsor’s night time economy. Since starting in 2012 our team of dedicated volunteers have helped over 50,000 people and in many cases their intervention has proved vital in order to keep people safe and offer support to individuals in their hour of need. I’m incredibly proud of our team and it’s because of their dedication and their outstanding commitment that so many people continue to be helped every week.’’ David is an inspiration, role model and hero to me. He goes way above what his job description is and his attitude towards life and the community he serves is amazing. He always puts 100% into everything he does, some people would just manage the problems they see with temporary solutions. But he sought out to find permanent, more effective, long term solutions for the problems he was seeing on a daily basis and not just the one problem but multiple problems. Those issues now have resources that can be utilised to deal with them in a more holistic approach. David, you are my hero. Thank you for allowing me to become a small part of your incredible team of Street Angels.
Windsor Street Angels carry a lot of kit as we never know what the shift will entail. We have a bag that contains 2 flasks of hot water, cups, drink sachets, sugar, bread rolls, biscuits. This is primarily used for the homeless community. The second bag is the first aid kit that contains everything from a plaster, sick bag, ice pack, pulse oximeter and more for those who have been injured or ill. We also have a trolley full of flip flops and water for those who have had too much to drink and need some help to get on their way home. Also in the trolley are mini first aid kits, toiletries and more for the homeless community as well as signposting them to correct support such as Windsor Homeless Project. Our final bag contains the defibrillator, we carry it every shift because anyone can suffer a cardiac arrest at any moment and gives us some reassurance to know we got it. Luckily we have never had to use it, but there have been a few cases where we had to get it out of the bag because we thought the individual was going to deteriorate to that level.
Even with all the lockdowns this past year, we have supported over 3,000 people. If we weren’t there to help these people, their lives would have drastically changed, some of these people would have been left in the streets without any help to get them home. We have attended many individuals who have been left on the floor unconscious somewhere with no friends and no one coming to help them.
Windsor Street Angels has given me more than just an opportunity to help people. It has given me a second family filled with wonderful, caring people from all walks of life, some are teachers, office workers, retired and some are going through a similar path to me. The age ranges from 18 to someone in their 70s currently. Age, life experiences or beliefs is no barrier to being a Street Angel, all you need is the passion to help people. We all bring something unique to a team. Some like the first aid jobs, while others rather observe the crowd to ensure the rest of the team are safe while caring for someone.
The skills I have learnt with Street Angels have helped me in my development of a HCA, such as the observational skills means I am able to identify someone in need in all sorts of environments, signals and more. So I am able to recognise when a resident is in need even if it’s not obvious to most that they need help at the time. My role as a HCA has also made me a better Angel such as learning how to deal with conflict, people in distress and more. For example, techniques to help individuals or groups calm down.
If you wish to find out more about Windsor Street Angels, wish to join or donate visit our website or facebook page:
Finally, If you are interested in talking to the coordinator of Windsor Street Angels, you can contact David Bullock directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org