Beacon in the night

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on September 14, 2018

WHILE most folk are crawling under the covers to seek refuge in the warmth of their beds, come 11pm on a Saturday night, Albany’s own Ruth Carr and Jennie Small are shrugging on their jackets and backpacks to head out into the dark and provide aid to people who need it on Stirling Terrace and York Street.

Ms Carr, a volunteer with St John Ambulance, and Ms Small, a school chaplain, are part of Albany Street Chaplains group, a faith-based group who volunteer their time to deliver crisis care to people requiring assistance.

The group began three years ago and currently has 20 members who alternate walking the popular pub and club strip each Friday and Saturday night from 11pm to 3am.

Their care ranges from walking people to their cars, to handing out water bottles, to packing night-clubbers into taxis with a sick bag and providing first aid when necessary.

The pair say they have seen it all when it comes to nightlife behaviour.

“We just try to make it a bit safer,” Ms Small said.

“We’re like the sober eyes on the street.

“I was talking to a taxi driver one night and they said, ‘it’s been so much better here since you started’.

“I love to think we can make a difference.”

Ms Carr said she is often approached by people who simply want some company while on the street alone and are seeking safety in numbers.

“Sometimes people will come up to you and say, ‘can we just stand with you for a while?’, or they might just hang around you for a bit,” she said.

“We stand with people while they wait for a taxi too.”

The work of Albany Street Chaplains recently caught the eye of Albany’s Soroptimist International branch, who immediately wanted to help in any way possible.

President Janet Leamon said the street chaplains were using their own personal phones to call taxis and ambulances for people while on duty, and so decided the branch would donate $500 to go towards the purchase of a street chaplain phone.

“We wanted to help direct local money to local people,” Ms Leamon added.

Ms Carr and Ms Small said the phone would prove very helpful for them and the people they assist.

If you consider yourself as caring, compassionate, non-judgemental and empathetic and think you have what it takes to be a street chaplain, you can register your interest at