People who need help and support on a night out will now be able to use a new town centre refuge in Reading. 

A permanent home for Reading Street Pastors will now be open on Friday and Saturday nights at St Mary's Church House.

Reading First Stop will be there for those who need medical help and other services. The shop previously was based at Reading Minster.

Reading Street Pastors, who will staff the facility, told the BBC their service had saved lives and reduced pressure on hospitals.

The group of Christian volunteers have patrolled the town and offered a night-time refuge at various churches since 2009.

Street Pastor co-ordinator Sally Leonard said: "We have stopped several people committing suicide.

"Just this last weekend I had two emails from different parents, thanking the Street Pastors... for looking out for young people who would otherwise land themselves in danger".

Reading Safe Space is located at St Mary’s Church House on Chain Street. It was previously based at Reading Minister and before that, ran from a bus.

Reading’s Street Pastors are a team of volunteers who patrol the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights to care for, listen to and help people who are out for the evening.

In addition to housing these services, Reading Safe Space will deliver a range of community safety related services including crime prevention advice and training, and resources and support for victims of crime.

The new building is self contained and provides a much bigger space, will be better equipped, and allows the Council to deliver other safety services there alongside partners.

Councillor Karen Rowland welcomed the news, saying: “I’m delighted to see Reading Safe Space open in the town centre as this is a vital element of our collective work in Reading around ensuring safety for women and girls in the night-time economy.

"It will give a vital permanent home to both First Stop and the Street Pastors, two crucial town centre services whose work is so greatly valued. We’re proud that this partnership approach is able to ensure both residents and visitors that they can feel safe here and have a safe place to turn to should they need it.

"Importantly, this also removes pressure on the NHS, saving trips to A&E by treating those in need of help on the spot.”

The new facility was funded by some of the £429,000 Safer Streets funding received from the Home Office last year to reduce crime and improve safety in the town centre.

Matthew Barber, Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, said: “I am delighted that my office was able secure Safer Streets funding to deliver the Reading Safe Space.

"Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of joining First Stop and Reading Street Pastors on a Friday evening shift to see first-hand the essential support they provide to people on a night out in the town centre.

"It is great that both organisations will now have a permanent home in the town and that the Safe Space will provide other important community safety related services, including support for victims of crime.”

A council spokesman added: "Thanks to the Safer Streets funding Reading Borough Council has also created a Safer Students partnership with the University of Reading, Reading University Students’ Union and Reading College to improve safety for students in Reading.

"This includes a particular focus on the town centre at night-time, especially for women and girls,  and has engaged with students for their views on safety and worked alongside night time venues to provide clear and accessible information about Reading’s range of safety services. These include First Stop, Ask for Angela and the My Way app, and access to personal safety tools including anti-spiking devices.

"The Council has also worked with the University and College to create tailored training for students on informed consent and bystander awareness, which alongside the My Way app and the opening of the Safe Hub will create a safer night time environment for all students."