The latest death of a member of the homeless community has raised awareness about the vulnerability of people struggling to survive in difficult circumstances.
Paul John Feek, 49, who was originally from Ellesmere Port, died in Chester on Easter Sunday but his funeral took place just this week with more than 50 people attending the Blacon Crematorium service.
The service came in a week when Cheshire West and Chester Council revealed a total of four people, who were either residents or former residents of the Richmond Court homeless hostel in Boughton, had died in the last 12 months.
Paul, who had spent 30 years in Ellesmere Port where he grew up, had lived at Richmond Court but at the time of his death was staying at Crispin House in the city centre run by Chester Aid to the Homeless.
The congregation included his partner Bridget Ruhanan, family members – including a son he had never met – as well as homeless support workers and volunteers from the Chester SHARE shop charity who knew Paul as a regular customer.
A group of friends from his youth arrived in Mod gear on scooters and carried the coffin in a touching gesture.
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Lay preacher Veronica Johnston, who got to know Paul at a Sunday afternoon drop-in session at Christ Church, Newtown, described the man she knew as ‘a lovely lad’ but compared him to a lost sheep, ‘never quite finding what he was looking for’.
“Alcohol and broken relationships combined to cut Paul’s moorings,” she told those gathered about Paul, an Everton fan, who had a ‘punk-ish’ taste in music.
The lay preacher, who stressed in prayer that ‘we all get things wrong’, added: “Nothing in Paul’s life really lasted and the demons returned and tragically the means of fending off the darkness was what was killing him.”
She led a prayer for the homeless community of Chester and Ellesmere Port and all those who care for them. She prayed for people separated from those they love, those with no home, who had lost jobs and lost a sense of self worth or were struggling with addiction.
She asked for God’s help in assisting the authorities to bring under control the legal highs that were ‘killing our young people’.
Mourners left the service to the strains of The Jam’s When You’re Young.
The Chronicle recently raised concerns with CWaC on behalf of local homeless people worried about a number of deaths within their community.
Cllr Paul Dolan, cabinet member for adult social care, responded: “It is a sad fact that people who are homeless face some of the worst health inequalities in society.
“They are at much greater risk of mental and physical health problems than the general population. The average life expectancy nationally for a homeless person is just 47.
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“In Cheshire West and Chester, we are committed to tackling these inequalities. A significant amount of work is being undertaken by the council and its partners to improve services that support the health and wellbeing of homeless people.
“Addressing the health needs of homeless individuals is a priority in Cheshire West and Chester’s Homelessness Strategy.
"The council and its partners have recently signed up to the St Mungo’s Charter for Homeless Health which further underlines our commitment to working together to help improve the lives of some of West Cheshire’s most vulnerable people.”
Cllr Dolan continued: “Very sadly, two people who were receiving support at Richmond Court have died during the last 12 months. There were no suspicious circumstances in either case. We are aware that two people who had previously been supported at Richmond Court have died during the same period. We send our deepest sympathies to each of the families affected.”