Memorial garden for people who have died sleeping rough opens

St Martins resident Wayne, laying a stone in memory of his late daughter Carrieanne

St Martins resident Wayne, laying a stone in memory of his late daughter Carrieanne - Credit: St Martins

To the naked eye, they are just colourful stones with names written on them.

The Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, and Kate Riley at Bishopbridge House

The Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, and Kate Riley at Bishopbridge House - Credit: St Martins

But each stone laid in the new memorial garden of St Martins represents a person who was special to somebody and who died while fighting the challenges of homelessness.

St Martins, which leads the city's response to homelessness, has dedicated the garden of its hostel Bishopbridge House.

It has been designed as a peaceful place for reflection, where people can remember those in the city who have died while experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough.

Jan Sheldon, chief executive at St Martins, said: "Here at St Martins we are always counting.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins - Credit: David Cullingford

"We count the number of people on the streets, we count the number of people in our properties, we're frequently looking at our move on rates and support hours.

"Sadly, we don't count the number of people who have died while they use our services. For us, it isn't just about numbers and life expectancy."

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Recent figures show that the average life expectancy of a man living on the streets is 47 and 43 for a woman.

Dr Sheldon added: "Everyone we support is an individual with their own hopes, fears and dreams.

Bishopbridge House team leader Kate Riley laying a stone in the garden

Bishopbridge House team leader Kate Riley laying a stone in the garden - Credit: St Martins

"So not only do we want to try to encourage the people we support to look after themselves better, we also want to remember the people we support who have died.

"They were special to their friends and families, to people they shared their lives with ere including fellow residents and our team members.

"Every death is personal to us."

The garden has been lovingly put together by the charity's team, alongside residents of the hostel who helped dig over and stock the plant beds.

The garden was officially dedicated and blessed by The Rt Rev Graham Usher, with the first stone being laid by Wayne, one of the hostel's residents, in memory of his daughter Carrieanne.

St Martins trustee Brian Walker with a memorial stone at Bishopbridge House

St Martins trustee Brian Walker with a memorial stone at Bishopbridge House - Credit: St Martins

Bishop Graham said: "Every single person is precious and I hope this garden will be a place where you know you are precious.

"This is a place where we remember people whose names are written on stones.

"Not perhaps the manner in which they died or the manner of illness of the last few years of their lives - but as precious human beings."

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