The names of more than 165 homeless people who died in London in the past year, were read at the Annual Service of Commemoration at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square last Thursday. (see full list below). The church was packed with friends, family members, homeless charity workers and volunteers.
The service began with 'The Way Home' performed by Alastair Murray, John Deacon and Chris Bluemel, before the introduction by Rev Richard Carter.
Fr Padraig Regan from the The Passage, Ruth Bottoms, from West London Mission, Sinead Tompkins, from Connection at St Martin's and Mat Amp who works at The Pavement each read a list of names and then reflected on one of the people they had known.
Sinead recalled Pawel "a pure soul, who would give his last penny to anyone.." On the day of his funeral it snowed. "He always used to say snow reminded him of Poland" she said. Mat Amp remembered Kevin Headley who died of a heart attack at the age of 52. "He had a positive effect on everyone who met him" he said. "He was the spiritual heartbeat of Hackney Wick. One of the most inspirational people I have ever met. He smiled at the world."
After a reading from Isaiah, 49 'even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands..' Kathy Mohan from Housing Justice recalled a rough sleeper that she was used to seeing in the same place, who died one night. When the ambulance came and collected his body, there was no identification and no one knew his name..
The music group played Gavin Bryars' beautiful song 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet' as the congregation was invited to come up one by one and take a prayer card with the name of one person who died.
After a time of silence, Choir With No Name launched into a rousing version of Love is in the Air and there was a reflection by Bandi Mbubi, Director of the Manna Centre. Streetwise Opera gave a superb performance of 'A Passionate Outcry: Reflections on Dies Irae from Britten's War Requiem and Go Down Moses from Tippet's Child of Our Times.
The service ended with the Lord's Prayer and a Blessing from Rev Richard Carter. The final Hymn was 'I vow to you my friends of earth' - before the congregation were invited to the Connection for a light lunch.
"This is one of the most important evens of the year" one woman told me as we left the church. "Some people here will be grieving for friends or relatives. This will be the only memorial service for some of the people named here."
Preston [aka -'Christian'] Brown
Paul Cooper [aka - 'Holford']
Paul John Devine
Joao Manuel/Juan Ferreira Marcelino
Steve (Istvan) Hetenyi
Anthony ('Tony the Hat') Hoy
Alan Jordan [aka -' Higgins']
Stephen Kinghorn [aka - 'Lee']
Jaroslav (Jay) Kungurtsev
Jasandeep ('happy') Singh
Yadwinder Soni Singh
Peter Alan Smith
Dawn [aka -'Patricia']
Smith [aka - 'Gill']
Andrew Te Hira
Jayson [aka -'Daniel'] Thompson
Lech Zygmunt Toda
The following workers and volunteers also died in London in the past year
Chris Aflatt - Volunteer at the Passage
Liz Blackender - St Mungo's
Sister Eileen O'Mahoney - Found of the Passage
Sylvestre Price - volunteer for 20 years
Nicola Spencer - The Shelter Project Hounslow
Pure Guoyi - Volunteer at Open Door Meal, St James' the Less Church, Vauxhall Bridge Rd
According to a study released last month, more than 440 people experiencing homelessness are known to have died outdoors, or in temporary accommodation in the UK in the past year. The figures, compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) as part of their long-term project, Dying Homeless, show there were at least 449 deaths in a year - more than one each day.
The national charity for homeless people in the UK, Crisis, said the true number of those sleeping rough in England was far greater than the governments official figures, placing the number of people sleeping rough in England as over 8,000.
Gavin Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp44hQr8GVc
The Connection at St Martin in the Fields - www.connection-at-stmartins.org.uk
The Passage - http://passage.org.uk
Housing Justice - www.housingjustice.org.uk
Streetwise Opera - http://m.streetwiseopera.org
Choir With No Name - www.choirwithnoname.org
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