The dedication of these LGBT volunteers in Manchester will warm your heart
We’ve all had those nights we’d rather forget.
Whether it starts with the dodgiest lager on tap or ends in sixteen shots of some coloured liquid that might *just* be on this side of legal, booze of every type, taste and volume can affect us in a myriad of complex ways.
That’s where The Village Angels come in, a group of Manchester-based volunteers who work during the night to help LGBT people struggling after a wild night out.
For Manchester residents, the Angels are part of the fabric of the queer scene.
After eight years on the streets, the volunteers, which consist of the likes of lorry drivers, married couples and medical students wanting to use their expertise have roamed Manchester’s Gay Village, also establishing a Haven for vulnerable people to visit – and for the first time, are looking to expand outside of the city.
“The dream is to get angels in every city – that’s our 2018 goal,” said the leader of the project, James Huyton, to PinkNews.
“We have one of the tightest-knit LGBT communities in the UK – and it’s on the back of things like the Angels. We deal with people at such a varying pace. You get people, for example, asking for a selfie at one point, and then an hour later we had to intervene in this screaming argument between a mother and a daughter because the girl had drank too much,” he added.
Hoping to take some pressure of struggling police and ambulance services, the group are tasked with dealing with every issue a night out throws at them – and often, that can include those struggling with severe mental health problems.
“On NYE at the Village Haven, a young lad came in, and started crying. The team wanted to get him home safely – that’s the role of the programme. And then he said that if he went home tonight, he would kill himself. After that we had to completely change tack to ensure that home was the last place he went to,” said Huyton.
Huyton is so passionate about the project, which is part of the city’s LGBT Foundation, that he’s enlisted his mum as a volunteer.
And in a bid to help others in need across the country, Hulton has asked those beating the January blues to speak up about the problems they are going through.
As queer teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, as well as the likes of mental health charities like PACE shutting down in recent times, Huyton is urging LGBT people to speak out if they are experiencing issues – and to join the Angels themselves.
“There’s definitely a lot more people out over the festive period, and the festive period can bring up a lot of personal issues. Things like acceptance, or being at home, or loneliness,” he said.
“If you’ve got the January blues, turn to someone for support, anyone for support. Speak to friends, family, colleagues or an organisation, and get yourself out there, find ways to beat it.
“If you’re stuck for what to do, why not get involved in the community? There’s such a great social aspect to volunteering with us,” he added.
Looking for mental health support? Take a look at Mind’s Mental Health LGBTQ page.
Images courtesy of LGBT Foundation, Smirnoff and LADbible