A “horrified” Crisis worker has described how a homeless man died on the floor of a busy shelter on Christmas Eve, despite the best efforts of fellow rough sleepers to save him.
The man named Christopher, who was in his 60s, was pronounced dead from “natural causes” at the homeless shelter, believed to be in London, after other guests raised the alarm at around 11am.
According to shelter employee Ros Ponder, who wrote an emotional Facebook post about the incident, “he lay down under a blanket on the floor in the sleeping area and never got up again”.
The man was one of around 130 people sleeping in the makeshift dormitory because they had “nowhere else to go” over Christmas.
“No-one should be taking their breath in a place like this,” Ponder said in the social media post on New Years Eve, which has since been shared almost 19,000 times.
“In breaking the news to our volunteers and guests I said that it was a gentle death. He died of natural causes,” she wrote.
“The paramedics, police, fellow guests and volunteers did everything they could to keep him alive and respect his dignity. He was somewhere warm and dry with people who cared. At least he wasn’t out on the street.
“Everything I said was true. But the bit I missed out was how bloody angry I felt.”
Ponder continued: “We are not living in Victorian times. This is 21st century Britain. We’re a nation that spends more than £78billion on Christmas food, gifts and parties... and yet more and more people are living on our streets - curled up in doorways, on buses, park benches, even in dustbins.
“The average age of death for a homeless person in this country is just 47. We should all be horrified.”
Calling on the public to “try a bit harder to put an end to this shit” in 2018, Ponder added: “Donate some time or money to a homeless charity, add your name to Crisis’ and Shelter’s campaigns, shout at your local MP.
“Be angry, be appalled, be anything you like - just don’t ignore it.”
One man named John Cheyne responded: “I’m so upset at this, I feel like crying.
“It’s disgraceful that this person died on a gym floor. It doesn’t matter if it was gentle or peaceful, it shouldn’t be happening.
“We should all be ashamed of such a sad state of affairs.”
Another added: “That’s a tough one Ross and team, very well said and a good wake up call - there are most definitely things our family could have done without this Christmas.”
According to housing charity Shelter, there are currently more than 300,000 homeless people in the UK.
While some sleep rough on the streets, others sofa-surf or live in temporary accommodation.
In a statement Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes confirmed “with great sadness” that a homeless man named Christopher had died at one of the charity’s shelters on Christmas Eve.
“Christopher died peacefully, in a warm and safe environment under the care of our staff and volunteers,” Sparkes said.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our volunteers who looked after Christopher with great care and dignity when he came in off the streets, and acted calmly and respectfully in what was an extremely difficult situation.
“We would also like to send out a huge thank you to paramedics and the police for their compassion and professionalism.”
He continued: “It’s simply horrifying that the average age of death for a homeless person in Britain is just 47. Living on the streets is extremely dangerous and rough sleepers face unbearably hostile conditions, including freezing temperatures and little access to medical services.”
Crisis is determined to put an end to “this tragic injustice once and for all”, Sparkes added.