Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Marchers crossing Waterloo Bridge. Photo: Nick Cobbing.
Marchers crossing Waterloo Bridge. Photo: Nick Cobbing.

Rest In Peace? I think we cannot

Squall 7, Summer 1994, pg. 29.

On May 29th, SQUALL was involved in organising a march in memorial to the homeless people that have died as result of sleeping rough.

The charity CRISIS had examined mortuary and coroners’ records to discover that 617 homeless people died in 1992 alone. At the same time, the Government announced its intention to stop charities from delivering soup to homeless people in the London’s West End, saying it was encouraging those people to live on the streets.

In association with the Residents Action Group (residents of homeless hostels due to close ) and CHAR (Housing Campaign for Single People), a march from the Imperial War Museum to Trafalgar Square, with a funeral service from a vicar, the release of 617 black balloons, some speeches and the setting up of a large soup kitchen in Trafalgar Square.

The Rev Derek White, Chaplin of the Homeless for the Bishop of London read out the names of all the now deceased rough sleepers he had known personally. Then he reminded the crowd that “Jesus’ mother had squatted in a barn to give birth and that “Jesus had been buried in a tomb belonging to someone else”. He then reminded the assembled crowd of a passage in the New Testament: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but a Son of God has no place to rest his head.”

There were speakers from the Residents Action Group, SQUALL Magazine, John Battle (Shadow Housing Spokesman) and CHAR. Talking of John Major’s criticism of beggars and rough sleepers, hostels that are due to close, criminal sanctions against squatters and travellers, about the effects of recent government proposals to remove statutory permanent housing for ‘priority need’ homeless families, about Government plans to end charity soup runs and about how homelessness and bad health are unarguably intertwined. Two long time homeless people also held the ears with sharp poems of their experience.

Because the Memorial March synchronously came two days after John Major’s comments on beggars, and also because it was a slower news bank holiday on the day after the event, but mainly because the intuitive timing was perfect, the memorial day made the front pages of Times, The Telegraph and The Independent (with large photos in all) and a half page in The Guardian. Embarrassment is a political weapon and such weapons are required in order to ensure that the number of homeless people suffering the physical and mental trauma of sleeping on the streets, the number who are dying, is not just another increasing statistic, noted by not enough.

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Forked Tongues & Toungue Ties - the Government tries to silence critics - as well as charities and other groups involved in - helping the homeless and travellers - in Squall 7, Summer 1994