Deaths of homeless people remembered at annual service

By staff writers
November 12, 2011

The names of homeless and formerly homeless people who have died over the last year in London were recalled at the Annual Service of Commemoration on Thursday 10 November 2011. This year 146 names were read out

The service is organised each year during Remembrance week by St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Connection at St Martin’s and churches' charity Housing Justice, with Artistic Advisor Rosemarie Cockayne.

Those who take part include staff and volunteers from the many agencies and churches giving aid to homeless and vulnerable people, and homeless and formerly homeless people themselves.

The service brings together all who want to remember and give thanks for those who have died during the year, whether still on the streets, in hostels or in their own accommodation.

The Rev Richard Carter of St Martin-in-the-Fields led the service, which took as its theme 'Lost and Found'. Those reading out the names were Steve Barnes of the Simon Community, the Rev Annie Kirke of the Westminster Churches Winter Shelter project, Father Padraig Regan of the Passage, and Kaz Mayes of the Connection at St Martins.

Musical contributions were provided by The Choir with No Name and Streetwise Opera, and a poem from a member of the Connection’s Creative Writing group.

An original drawing called “Trust”, produced by artist Don Pollard, was used on the poster and postcard given to all who attended. Pollard’s drawing portrayed a small bird resting on someone’s joined hands.

The artist said: “It is on the hands, not in the hands because I wanted to show that the bird is still free, that is so important when we trust that we are still free.” The postcard included the name of one of those being commemorated.

Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son was the image over the altar, the picture showing the open hands of the Father welcoming the lost son home and the congregation were invited to place a footprint along the cloth leading toward the altar, on which was written the name of one of those being commemorated.

Dr Paul O’Reilly of Dr Hickey’s surgery, which provides GP services for homeless people, gave a short reflection. He said: “Each person whose name was read out today belongs to us. In remembering them we remember ourselves and the community which we belong to.”

Alastair Murray of Housing Justice said: “The service gives us an opportunity to reflect on homelessness and its consequences, as we remember those who have died. It’s also good to meet with friends and colleagues to give thanks for those people we have known who often lived life on their own terms.”

Housing Justice are also working with Scottish Churches Housing Action and Church Action on Poverty to coordinate Poverty and Homelessness Action Week (28 January to 5 February 2012), a week long series of events to highlight the problems of poverty and homelessness in Britain today.

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