North West charity YMCA Together unveiled the UK’s first memorial to commemorate those who have sadly lost their lives whilst homeless.
The Homeless Memorial Garden is located in South Liverpool’s Dutch Farm; a recreational space for service users of YMCA Together to engage in development activities around agricultural work as well as tending to animals including chickens and pigs.
The memorial provides a sanctuary to remember those known by YMCA Together while also celebrating the lives of people across the wider Merseyside area.
Chief Executive of YMCA Together Ellie McNeil said: “This year, YMCA Together celebrates its 175th birthday and as part of marking this milestone we have been developing a memorial garden for people who have died whilst homeless to provide a welcoming space for friends and families to come to mourn the loss of their loved ones and celebrate their lives.
“Every year, local councils around the UK carry out thousands of public health funerals to cremate or bury people when they have died in circumstances where the family is unable to be traced, or where no funeral arrangements have been made. In these circumstances the person who has died will be provided with a coffin and the services of a funeral director to bear them to the crematorium or cemetery with dignity. For members of the homeless community there is often no way to mourn the friend who has passed away and no place to go to remember them.
“Unfortunately, we see people in the homeless community lose their lives far younger than most – the average age of death for homeless women is 45 and 47 for men. This is arguably one of the most shocking health and social inequalities in our society. We want to ensure that these individuals are not just another statistic and instead that their memory is kept alive.”
The Homeless Memorial Garden was designed by the team at YMCA Together and its service users who have been involved in every element of the project. This collaborative process aims to aid wellbeing and offers a sense of closure alongside a celebration of life in a peaceful and reflective space at Dutch Farm.
The area includes a plaque wall commemorating the names of those who have died as well as providing a tranquil space for contemplation. The farm houses an abundance of vegetation to represent new hope while the YMCA Together community have contributed to ‘yarn bombing’ – a form of art that sees trees dressed with colourful knitted and crocheted decorations.
Ellie added: “This collaboration means so much to us and it’s been heart-warming to see the people we work alongside take so much pride in creating a beautiful space to pay respect. Although the sentiment is a sombre one, we wanted to include plenty of life with trees and plants and an injection of colour to make this feel like a place of positivity that can uplift and provide optimism.
“It’s important for us to not only honour people locally but beyond that too – it really is a place for everyone where they can feel solace from a difficult situation.
“Homelessness impacts thousands of people in the North West and unfortunately we are seeing this increase. As a charity, we would urge anyone who feels at risk to seek help to find a safe place to stay. We’ve seen first-hand the impact of good support, understanding and care and we want that for everyone who finds themselves experiencing challenges in their lives.”
For more information visit: www.ymcatogether.org.uk
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