Leeds centre’s memorial for lost loved ones

ORGANISERS: St Anne's workers Fiona Petrie and Liz Knight.
ORGANISERS: St Anne's workers Fiona Petrie and Liz Knight.
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It was a chance for a quiet moment of reflection.

Friends and families of those who have died while living on the streets of Leeds or in the grip of addiction gathered to pay tribute to lost loved ones.

The event at St Anne’s Resource Centre was held yesterday after a national day of remembrance.

One well-wisher, Robert, attended to pay respects to Jason Wager, known to friends as JJ, after he was found dead earlier this month. His funeral took place this week.

Robert said: “I’m here just to remember him. He was a good guy, he had a heart of gold.

“He would help you out if he could.”

The two knew each other for around five years after meeting on the streets, where it is understood Mr Wager lived for around 30 years. Robert, 32, who currently lives in a shelter, said that losing friends met on the streets is “fairly common”.

People taking part in the memorial were offered the chance to make crafts spelling out the names of those who have died, and attendees could write a tribute tag to be placed on a line at the centre.

Fiona Petrie, service user co-ordinator, said: “It’s a very personal thing to each and everybody. People have spoken about loss and it’s quite tragic, when somebody is homeless or there’s addiction and when someone’s not with family, they don’t really get to say goodbye.”

She added that while they promoted the event this week, not one person they spoke with had not known someone who had died.

“It shouldn’t be the norm for the vulnerable and homeless,” she said.

Colleague Liz Knight, resource centre manager, added: “From a [surviving] family point of view, if you haven’t had any contact with your family, then that leaves people very distressed. When you hold something like this, they know that people are still supporting and caring.

“I don’t think people take on board how traumatic it is for families.”

Steve McLead, a former St Anne’s service user who now volunteers for the centre, wrote a tribute tag to his father Alexander, a homeless drinker who was killed in Scotland around a decade ago. Speaking about his own periods of homelessness in Leeds, the 48-year-old said: “This place was a life-saver at that time. There was nowhere else you could get a meal from.”

A string of deaths on the streets of Leeds recently have included those of Mr Wager, Alan Campbell, Fiona Watson, Nigel Whalley and a man known as ‘Geordie’.

Throughout the year, the Yorkshire Evening Post is running a series of stories about the growing issue of homelessness.