A CASH windfall means that a church-driven plan to send a host of “guardian angels” on to Eastleigh’s town centre streets can now get off the ground.

Eastleigh Street Pastors will be following in the footsteps of their counterparts at Fair Oak, where the initiative has led to a dramatic drop in crime.

Violence, theft, criminal damage and rowdy behaviour have all been slashed since the street pastors hit the village’s streets.

Chris Harvey, chairman of the Eastleigh Street Pastors management committee, said a vision for street pastors was raised with church leaders 18 months ago.

Now that dream is set to become a reality after donations of £5,000 from the borough council’s Safer Communities Fund and £3,000 from Hampshire Constabulary.

Chris said: “These two donations alone mean work can start immediately on arranging the training.”

He said the support from the community had been overwhelming, with cash also coming from the churches. Eastleigh now has 27 people who are keen to begin the street pastor training in April, with further people interested in being prayer pastors.

It is hoped that the first group of street pastors will step out in Eastleigh during the summer.

They will be out and about on Friday nights, making sure that people get home safely from pubs and clubs.

The launch of the Eastleigh Street Pastors was celebrated at a highprofile event at the Litten Tree, where guests included church members, police officers, councillors and Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne.

Keynote speaker was Les Isaac, of the Ascension Trust, pioneers of the street pastors movement, which has now gone global.

He said that he felt God was challenging Christians to be real and relevant in communities and he said the work of the street pastors was about acting with compassion for fellow human beings.

With street pastors as old as 86, the scheme was also bridging the generation gap: “Young people are so impressed to see older people out on the streets caring for them,” he added.

An indication that they had been accepted by the community was that, in six years, not one street pastor had been hurt.

Mr Isaac emphasised that Street Pastors needed to work in partnership with local authorities on ensuring that those who needed help received it.

If you would like to know more, ring Steve Smallwood on 0753 8054483 or e-mail eastleigh@streetpastors.org.uk.