Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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SIFA Fireside holds memorial service

March 09 2011
Remebering 26 service users - and possibly many more

On Wednesday 26 January, Birmingham-based charity SIFA Fireside held a service to remember 26 service users who died in 2010. Project worker Julie Ashford-Martin organised the ceremony at the Fireside building in Digbeth, and more than 30 staff and service users attended. It was run by Victoria Denning, a humanist celebrant, and was non-religious in order to respect the beliefs and spirituality of all those who died and of the friends who cared about them. The emotional occasion was a reminder of the importance and value of the lives of everyone, including those hidden from mainstream society. Music and poetry, some of it written by Fireside members, was used to remember the dead, and a symbolic candle was lit as the attendees took time to reflect on the lives of their friends.

The memorial service gave SIFA Fireside members an opportunity to come together and remember those who had died. Homeless people do not always have family funerals, and many service users are unable to attend them. The significant number of deaths meant that a group ceremony was an appropriate way for service users to pay their respects. The service also offered the chance for people to reflect on those people who died anonymously on the streets. As Julie Ashford-Martin pointed out: "Twenty-six is a lot of people and that's just from this one centre. These are only the people we know about - the actual figure may be much greater".

Bill West, a regular service user at SIFA Fireside, commented on the higher death rate: "It seems to have rocketed this year. It's not just drink and drugs - the cold probably had an influence on people's health, and the recession means that people are getting poorer. It's been a difficult year".