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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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London's homeless dead remembered

November 12 2009
Come to St Martin‘s on 12 November.
London's homeless dead shall not be forgotten, thanks the annual commemoration service held in St Martin in the Fields this month. The Trafalgar Square church will hold a ceremony at 11.30am on 12 November to remember the homeless and ex-homeless people who have died in the capital over the last year. Those who lived in hostels and in other temporary accommodation will also be remembered. All are welcome at the "branches and vines"-themed service, where the names of the dead will be read out. Housing Justice, joint organiser of Annual Service of Commemoration, has collected names since last year's service from homeless services across the city. Alistair Murray, regions coordinator, said: "The numbers vary each year, largely according to the weather. Last year there were some very cold points and so we may have another long list this year, I'm afraid." Last year, several of the 150 names read out hailed from Poland. "There is no official help for people arriving from Europe, and this has lead straightaway to an increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets at night," Murray said. "Every year since [since 2004 and the expansion of the EU], there have been a lot of names of Polish and Latvian people, and so on. It won't be any different this year." The commemoration service has been held since the 1980s and about 200 people and homelessness workers attended last year. Like then, November's ceremony will include poetry readings, prayer, song and a time for all the congregation write the names of the dead on paper leaves to hang on a central vine at the front of the church. Streetwise Opera and the Choir with No Name, both organisations of homeless and ex-homeless people turned singers and artists, will be performing again this year. Whilst it's a scandal that more than 100 homeless people die in London each year, the service is more about the personal than the political, giving people a chance to celebrate diverse life stories and commemorate life. "It's not an unremittingly sad service," Murray said. "It's about remembering those people who have lived in the margins: those who have been homeless or street homeless and people who otherwise might not be remembered," Murray explained.