Editor’s comment: Will shining a light on deaths prevent them?

Homeless Neculai Popa died in Islington. Photo: THE BIG ISSUE

Homeless Neculai Popa died in Islington. Photo: THE BIG ISSUE - Credit: Archant

Hannah Somerville’s investigation into the deaths of homeless people in Islington makes extremely sad reading.

Particularly bleak is the fact no one was formally recording them until the Bureau of Investigative Journalism stepped in.

It feels wrong to say I’m glad the Office of National Statistics will now be keeping a tally of what is a pretty severe indictment of Britain – because of course what I want is for no one else to die homeless, in Islington or anywhere.

But as the housing crisis deepens and winter approaches I fear there is nothing so rosy on the cards.

At least better record-keeping might open the eyes of policymakers and those who elect them. That’s half the point of journalism: to shine a torch on the ugly bits of public life (and death) in the hope someone sorts them out.

Deprivation often makes people anonymous: they lose the resources, including time and health, to make a fuss, build and engage a support network, or fight for their rights.

Breaking that anonymity in death gives a small, if cruelly inadequate, piece of power back to homeless people. If publicising cases like these reduces the number of such cases in the future – well, then, better that than silence and an endless cycle of disenfranchisement and vulnerability.

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If you knew any of the four people we’ve written about – or if you know about any cases we haven’t found out about – please get in touch so we can paint a fuller picture of their lives rather than their deaths.

They deserve better than to be forgotten, but they also deserve better than a few paragraphs in a local paper.

Sadly, for now, that’s all we’ve been able to offer them.