Street Angels looking out for the nation

Paul and Jean Blakey, pictured at a book signing in Halifax Central Library.
Paul and Jean Blakey, pictured at a book signing in Halifax Central Library.

A new book tells the incredible story of the Street Angels and the difference the project has made not only in Halifax - but worldwide.

Halifax-born Paul Blakey MBE launched Halifax Street Angels in November 2005 after seeing the problems the town faced first hand.

His recently published book, Street Angels, tells how the project went from an idea to a model which has changed communities for the better across the country, and further afield.

Paul said: “I was inspired to set up Halifax Street Angels after seeing the need for it in Halifax town centre, it was known as the Wild West of West Yorkshire.

“On any given Friday or Saturday night there were between 8,000 and 12,000 people in the town centre, violence had become fairly common, sexual assaults had unfortunately become fairly common, there was underage drinking, binge drinking and the town had really become a no-go area.

“What we saw on Friday and Saturday nights was quite horrendous - we regularly saw people throwing up, people wandering around with broken bottles, vomit all over the floor, blood all over the floor and people laying in gutters.”

This experience led Paul, and his wife Jean, to open the town’s fairtrade cafe up as a safe space and work with the police to make a difference.

The results were dramatic.

“In the first six weeks we helped 69 different people, ranging from elderly people that had gone to the theatre and walking them from the theatre to the bus stop, to a 14 year old girl who came up to us in the town centre four years later to tell us that the night had changed her life.

“She told us that because of the help and support we gave her, she realised her life was worth more than the life she was living.

“There’s now stories like that across the country, from the people we have helped.”

Following the success story of the Halifax Street Angels, the police recognised it as a model which worked and could be emulated in other towns facing similar issues.

And to accommodate the expansion of Street Angels, Paul founded the Christian Nightlife Initiatives (CNI) Network in July 2008 - which he now works on full time.

Now, more than 100 towns and cities across the UK have launched similar projects and schemes now also run in Magaluf, Ibiza and Tenerife.

“One of the hallmarks of the Street Angels projects across the country is that violent crime comes down, it reduces significantly,” Paul said.

“It’s about having people who care out on the streets of the town, simply caring for other people.

“One of our mottos is love the person in front of you and that can make such a massive impact and difference.”

In 2010, Paul was awarded an MBE and in 2012, received the Big Society award from David Cameron