A faith-in-action support service which offers guidance to troubled souls on the streets of Perth has had to change tack this year, in the face of a dried up Christmas party season.
The Fair City’s Street Pastors were among the first of their kind in Scotland when the group launched 13 years ago.
Usually, the team spends its weekend nights patrolling the city centre, chatting to people about a range of issues and helping the lost and disorientated find their way home.
But as Covid restrictions continue to put the kybosh on Christmas parties and nights out, the pastors have had to radically alter their approach.
For the first time, they have set up shop in Perth High Street with a temporary take-over of the vacant Gap store.
And while they won’t be pounding the beat during the wee hours of the morning, they are finding new ways to reach people in crisis and offer support.
Chairman Gordon Loudon said: “Traditionally, when the pubs and clubs were open, we would be out from 10pm on a Friday to about 4am the next morning.
“December is usually a busy time for us, because of all the Christmas parties.
“But obviously, that all changed as soon as we went into lockdown.”
He said: “This is the first time we have had a base in the city centre. It was something we had been talking about for some time, and the old Gap store came up at a meeting we had with the police, community wardens and the YMCA.
“We knew we had to completely change our direction, but this was a great way for us to retain a presence in the city centre.”
Mr Loudon said: “It has been very different, but it has been good. We are meeting a lot of people who have never heard of us, because they rarely set foot in the city centre in the small hours of a Saturday morning.
“We’ve been speaking to people who are struggling because of health or finance, or just worried about their future.”
The pastors have set up a prayer window at the store, where people can leave messages about the things they are thankful for, and those they are praying for.
“They can come in and write their messages on a post-it note,” he said. “And we let them know that we are here if they want to chat.”
Perth’s Street Pastors began with about 16 men and women pounding the beat, but the number has increased to 29, with some in their 70s and and 80s.
They will be back at their city centre base on Friday and Saturday and Hogmanay from noon to 6pm