A few Thursdays ago, I attended a service of commemoration for those who have died homeless in the last year.
The service, organised by the central London church St Martin-in-the-Fields, takes place every November for those struggling with homelessness and those who work with London’s homeless population.
Although I’ve heard the statistics many times, I was still shocked and saddened to hear the names of the 129 men and women who died homeless in the past year read out loud in the service. These names are provided by London’s homelessness services. But they are just a few of the deaths that have taken place this year in England and Wales. The real number is almost certainly higher and the horrors of homelessness hard to fathom. I confess I felt angry, hearing how the average age of death is about 42 years old, that’s almost half the lifespan of the population generally, which is an appalling injustice.
But at the same time, the service was also immensely beautiful, with perhaps 600 people, including at least 200 homeless people, gathered to remember, mourn, pray and stand together in solidarity.
The Choir with No Name – a choir group for people affected by homelessness – sang with ‘This is Me’ from the Greatest Showman with passion and energy that was deeply moving. Here are some of the uplifting words from the song:
I’m not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.
The service is both a reminder of what still needs to be done to tackle homelessness and what might be possible if we all work together to support people facing homelessness.
– Steve Coles, SCT CEO.