Our specially trained volunteers patrol the streets of Soho on Friday and Saturday nights and help people who become vulnerable after a night out.
Read more about their stories:
I have often been out in Soho, I’ve seen some fantastic sights and some sad sights. I’ve seen people enjoying themselves, and people not with it at all. I remember picking up my son from G-A-Y (Astoria) many years ago, there were some people hanging around, not knowing where they were, with so called ‘taxis’ trying to pick them up. Go forward 15 years and this remains the same; the only difference is that the Astoria isn’t there anymore.
I have always felt that there was and is a need for street helpers in Soho, so imagine my surprise when I received an email about Soho Angels.
The email came via an LGBTI+ group that I belong to. I filled in the application and at the time I thought I may be too old for the angels (I’m a 66 year old gay man), but was assured that I was not, and that the experience that I could bring would be welcome. The process was painless and quite quick. I was invited to a one-day training course in Central London and met some other great people. The trainers were very good, and the training opened my eyes to the need of the night-time community and how we can help. After that day I was ready to get my angel wings, hoping they would be rainbow ones, but alas there were no wings to be seen. I was assured that on my first shift I would receive the Soho Angels uniform.
Fast forward to my first shift. I’d signed up by email for 2 or 3 shifts, on Friday nights from 10pm to 5am. In trepidation, I made my way to St Anne’s Soho, the hub for Soho Angles, ready to receive, or to earn, my wings (I’m an ex RAF man).
There were about 12 of us plus St John Ambulance, my uniform was given to me (alas no rainbow wings), but a nice warm hoodie and a bright pink high vis jacket. It was a lovely surprise that the volunteers were a mixture of ages, gender, ethnicity, just one great mix of people who wanted to help their fellow humans without any judgement.
I could go into the first night, but suffice to say we were busy and the welcome we got from the bars, clubs and door staff as well as the punters, was fantastic. The work that we were doing was and is needed. I would recommend it to anyone, whatever their age. Yes, it is tiring. I walked over 10km that night (one way to keep fit), and got home at 05:45 knackered and ready for bed. No angel wings but maybe a halo, at least that’s what people said to me - you are an angel.
So, become an angel in Soho, hard work and fabulous people!
I’ve done a few shifts as a Soho Angel and every night has been different. The response from the community has been amazing, and we are recognised by the public, door staff, and the police.
I remember walking around Soho when someone approached my team and told us that he’d seen someone who needed help. He directed us to a woman who was lying on the ground. Passers-by had already called an ambulance, but were able to contact the St. John team in the Night Hub, who arrived within minutes.
We took her back to the hub (in St Anne’s church) for her to get medical attention and sober up so that she could go home safely. It was amazing seeing how quick the team was to get her off the street and into safety, and how we were able to reduce the number of ambulances that are needed on the streets.
Another time, a bouncer called my team over to help a girl that had been left sitting on her own outside a club. She was conscious, but vomiting and unable to go home on her own so we took her back to the Hub to sober up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t contact any of her friends as her phone had already been locked. St. John Ambulance took care of her until she was able to safely get home in a cab.
Volunteering as a Soho Angel has been extremely rewarding as we get to help people, minimise the number of ambulances needed and reduce crime by being a friendly face on the streets. I recommend volunteering as it has been a great way to make new friends and to experience Soho.
Have you been out and about in Soho on a Friday night and seen a group of people walking around in bright pink vests? They're the Soho Angels and they're out to help everyone end the night right. I am usually walking the street with other volunteers, but in March I had my first night as a Shift Lead.
This meant that instead of being out in Soho, I was back at the Hub on Dean Street, receiving radio calls from the Angels and liaising with our team mates from St John's Ambulance (SJA), London Ambulance Service and the local Police.
The night began a little before 10pm by setting up the Hub with the SJA equipment (stretcher beds, chairs, and medical kits), assigning teams and getting the refreshments ready.
Each Friday night we have about 15 Angels and 6 or so SJA crew as our base team, but we're always looking for more volunteers!
At 10pm, we officially kicked off the shift with a briefings, including reminders of what to do in tricky situations and a big thank you to all the volunteers.
Angels were then divided up into groups of 3 or 4, and each group was assigned an area of Soho to patrol. Throughout the night, the Angels popped back to the Hub to warm up, have a snack, and most importantly, to bring vulnerable people back to the Hub.
The care we give people ranges from just having somewhere warm and dry to sit and sober up or charge their phone so they can order an Uber or call their loved ones, all the way through to administrating an IV drip or calling an ambulance if they need specialist medical care. We have a supply of warm clothes for vulnerable people which has saved a few people from walking home very cold or with soiled clothing!
7 hours goes so quickly when you're on a night shift. During the night, we kept our Angels supplied with tea, coffee, biscuits, snacks and pizza... I tried my best not to burn it! I did not succeed. (Sorry guys!)
By the time the birds started chirping outside, the last of the revellers were heading home. Then, finally, it was our turn. By 5am, you see a very different scene than you did at midnight - a lot less sequins, and a lot more sensible shoes!