Poles among street homeless who have died in past year

St Martin's in the Fields

St Martin's in the Fields

Many of the homeless people who died on the streets of London over the past year came from Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. Their names were among more than 200 read out at the Annual Service of Commemoration at St Martin's in the Fields on Thursday, 12th November.
The service is organised by the Connection at St Martins and Housing Justice annually during remembrance week. It brings together the agencies and churches working to assist people who are homeless and vulnerable, as well as homeless people themselves, to remember those who have died over the year, whether still on the streets, in hostels or in their own accommodation.

Volunteers and staff who have died are also commemorated.

Rev Richard Carter of St Martin's in the Fields led the service and read out the first set of names. Also reading out names were Jo Nurse of the Simon Community, Bandi Mbubi of the Manna Centre and Kaz Mayes of the Connection at St Martins. Following the names each reader gave a short personal reflection on the life of someone they knew who had died, remembering and paying respect to people with often troubled and shortened lives.

All who were present were then invited to write a name on leaves to attach to a hand painted vine, representing the scripture 'I am the vine you are the branches'. The vine with all the names was then lifted up in front of the altar. The vine was painted by artistic director Rosemary Cockayne and a team of volunteers from her art group at Chelsea Methodist Church.

Musical contributions were made by The Choir with No Name and Streetwise Opera, including the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind',  'Bridge over Troubled Water' and "There's a place for us" from Westside story. Other music was provided by a trio leading the congregation in Taize singing, and during the symbolic lifting up of the vine.

Poems, prayers and the Gospel reading were given by people representing many of the different churches and agencies working to help homeless people in London, including Major Valerie Mercer of the Salvation Army.

The Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Dudley and former Chair of Housing Justice, gave a reflection. He said: "Today is about remembering those who have died without a home or on the edges of our society. We remember and give thanks to God for their lives and for the ways in which they have touched and enriched our lives. In life many may have passed them by, but today their names ring out across this city"

Rev Richard Carter of St Martin's in the Fields commented: "This is one of the most moving and important services which takes place in this church each year. It is also one of the most disturbing. This year the list of those who have died is longer than ever and today we remembered 200 people who have died in the last year. The theme "I am the vine, you are the branches," recognises that we belong to one another and belong to God, each person deserving human dignity love and respect.

"Recognising that if one part of our society suffers we all must feel it and that a society will be judged by the way it treats it's most vulnerable members. Today's list of names includes those who came from overseas seeking sanctuary, work and hope, the fact that we are reading out their names today and the names of many others shows that they did not find it and it confronts us with the urgency of the need which exists for those living on our streets who are often treated with suspicion and intolerance and even hate. "

Alastair Murray of Christian campaigning charity Housing Justice said: "The service is always an attempt to solemnly remember those who have died, but also to celebrate people who have lived life on their own terms. When the hand painted vine with all the names was raised up in front of the altar it was a powerful symbol of shared hope, even in the midst of struggle and suffering"

 Source: Housing Justice


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