Tragedy was said to have been brought to the government’s door last month when a rough sleeper in his 40s died metres away from the Houses of Parliament near Westminster tube station last month.
As the story hit the headlines, many people said it was ‘a wake up call’ for MPs. Flowers were laid by many politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn, as other members rushed to share their condolences on social media.
Today another man in his 40s died on the streets of London – less than two miles from the Palaces of Westminster. I walked past his dead body on my morning commute without even realising. On my daily lunchtime walk around the block, he was gone - his body quietly removed. But this time, there were no flowers. No condolences. No trace.
In central London, the sight of bodies huddled in shop fronts and tucked in doorways has become a familiar one. Camden, the borough I work in, had the third highest rate of rough sleeping in England last year.
This morning when I walked from the tube station, I noticed three people sleeping on the pavement on Tottenham Court Road. Two were close together and one was a bit further along. Once I arrived at work, I gave them no more thought until a colleague arrived an hour and said: ‘Did you walk past Warren Street today?’
‘There is a police cordon there – by Sainsbury’s – it looked like a body covered in a duvet.’
I felt a chill. I had unknowingly walked past a dead body. My only experience so close to death was nearly 10 years ago – when my dad died surrounded by loving family and friends in a warm hospice in a comfy bed.
But the man who died overnight was probably cold. His family were not there.
We’re journalists and HuffPost takes an active interest in homelessness. A colleague went to the scene. Police confirmed to him a rough sleeper in his 40s had died. His friend told us his was known as “Irish Keith”.
But unlike the outcry when a man died by the tube station in Westminster, there was no instant government response when Keith died.
Latest figures show rough sleeping levels are at their highest on record. An estimated 4,751 people were sleeping rough in autumn last year, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) - a 15% rise, up by 617 from the autumn 2016 total of 4,134.
You may also have walked past somebody who one day might never wake up. When will that be enough of a “wake up” call for the people in charge?