Big Issue Changmaker the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) is calling for submissions to a new online memorial designed to remember those who have died while homeless.
MoH was already keeping track of homeless deaths, having taken over the task after the Bureau of Investigative Journalism began the count. At present the Dying Homeless project shows 1,468 people have died without a home between the count’s launch in late 2017 and the end of last year.
Now the activists are responding to the threat posed to the homeless population by the Covid-19 crisis by partnering with the UCL Collaborative Centre for Inclusion Health.
They’ll work with Professor Andrew Hayward and Dr Al Story, the brains behind the clinical plan for protecting homeless people during the pandemic, which MoH say has “already saved countless lives”. Together they will campaign for changes to the local government response to Covid-19 to protect homeless lives.
In a statement, MoH said: “We hope that the site will also offer a space for people to grieve and remember those we have lost.
“It is very hard to attend funerals at the present time. The site offers people the opportunity to submit a memory or tribute and we hope that this will be useful for our community of people affected by homelessness, workers and volunteers.”
As well as tracking the number of people who die while homeless – including rough sleepers and ‘sofa surfers’ plus those in hostels and temporary accommodation like B&Bs – the Dying Homeless project tries to verify the cause of death where possible, in tandem with charities and coroners officials.
They gather the names and stories of those who have died to ensure they’re not forgotten, redacting sensitive details where necessary or where family have requested it.
The new memorial site was planned to launch last month but was pushed back as the charity mobilised with other activists to fight the pandemic on the frontline and protect those stuck without a home. The group have teamed up with Streets Kitchen and local activists to form a Homeless Task Force durng the crisis and were instrumental, along with the local council, in sourcing funding for Mildmay Hospital to treat homeless Covid-19 patients.
The new site will record all homeless deaths reported to it, not just those caused directly by Covid-19, but MoH say the data will help them understand the full impact of the virus on the homeless population.
“This is a vital project that will help ensure the rights of homeless people are respected and we hold those responsible to account when they’re not,” they added.
You can help by reporting deaths of homeless people here.