Guardian Angel of the streets

Winging her way through new job

Last updated 12:00 07/06/2014
guardian angel
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Natacha O'Brien-Howell.

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Natacha O'Brien-Howell hopes to be the friendly face and helping hand that she never had while out on the town.

As Palmerston North's new SafeCity Angel, O'Brien-Howell spends her Friday and Saturday nights walking the central city beat with the SafeCity Hosts and occasionally police, engaging with young people out on the town.

The Safe City Angel is a new role created by the Safety Advisory Board in conjunction with Palmerston North Police, the SafeCity Hosts, Youth One Stop Shop (YOSS) and the Palmerston North City Council.

It was created to reduce harm caused by excess alcohol consumption, particularly among women aged 16-24.

Now two months into the job, 24-year-old O'Brien-Howell said the start of the evening had a slightly different focus than the early hours of the morning when everyone started heading home.

Early evenings were about checking in with party goers, getting them to think about their plan to get home, and encouraging them not to leave their friends.

By the early hours of the morning, she targets women walking alone and those visibly intoxicated, ensuring they have a way to get home that doesn't require them to walk across the city in the dark by themselves.

As a student studying for a degree in social work, the role drew O'Brien-Howell not just for the obvious links to her career of choice, but resonated personally as well.

She knew someone who was killed walking home alone at night, and as someone who had been active in the Palmerston North bar scene, she wished there was a role like hers operating when she was younger.

O'Brien-Howell said she had been surprised at how well she had been received, and her presence seemed to have made an impact.

"I've had girls call out ‘I've got my mates, and I've got my sober driver', so I know they're remembering our conversation."

O'Brien-Howell will be part of a "who are you" campaign in the coming weeks in an effort to encourage people to seek their own inner "angel" and intervene if they think someone needs help.

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- Manawatu Standard

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