Memorial service held for Islington’s homeless dead

Rev John Beauchamp, pictured with guide dog Nelson, led yesterday's service at St Stephen's Church,

Rev John Beauchamp, pictured with guide dog Nelson, led yesterday's service at St Stephen's Church, Canonbury. He invited those present to light candles in memory of the six Manna users who died this year - Credit: Archant

It’s a memorial service that happens every year. But it doesn’t get any easier for volunteers at The Manna, a homeless project at St Stephen’s Church, Canonbury.

Yesterday afternoon, the church held its annual service in memory of homeless people under its wing who died between January and November.

This year, The Manna, which every week runs three two-hour sessions for 150 homeless people, lost six of its “members”.

They were John Connor and Zoe Morgan, and four others known only as Josh, Lisa, Billy and Kieran.

With Christmas approaching, Rachel Smith, project worker at The Manna, reflected on Islington’s rich and poor divide which appears to remain as wide as ever.

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“Homelessness is such a problem in Islington, far more than people realise. I think the issue gets sidelined at times.

“Islington has a reputation of being a middle class, wealthy area for professionals. But you look deeper and 18,000 children are under the poverty line. And we are seeing more and more people come to The Manna.

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“There’s plenty of work being done on the frontline. We provide showers, meals, laundry and sessions such as singing and gardening. Then there are places like Finsbury Park Mosque with its meals for the homeless project.

“The problem is, where do you go from there in terms of getting people off the streets?”

Ms Smith, 24, of Essex Road, added: “It doesn’t shock me when I hear someone has died, but it feels like someone from my own family has died. I see these people three times a week - more than my own family.

“We have such a caring, close atmosphere. We accept anyone for who they are. So it’s always really emotional, really upsetting.”

In his service, the Rev John Beauchamp warned: “In the year to come, many more people will die in our streets in similar circumstances to those we remember today.

“We need to renew a commitment to be people who care more - for each other as individuals and as a society.”

For more information about The Manna, call 020 7226 5369 or visit

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