During the week I attended the delayed funeral service of Alan Brown. This is what I wrote on Facebook afterwards:
“It was a privilege to attend the funeral yesterday of one of our homeless friends, Alan Brown, a larger than life character, who will be missed. Well done Darryl and folk from the Storehouse for conducting the service with dignity. Thoughts are with Alan’s family and all those affected”.
It is generally accepted that the average life expectancy of rough sleepers is considerably less than the populace as a whole, and Alan was a genuine rough sleeper. Whether being street homeless was the direct cause of his death I can’t say, but it wouldn’t have helped. This is no doubt the case with many other rough sleepers who I have gotten to know since becoming a homeless activist, who have later died, something I have often had cause to reflect on and mourn the deaths of (such as here two years ago).
I have to confess I know little of Alan’s early life, besides meeting his ex-wife and daughter, or the triggers that caused him to become homeless or the struggles he had while living a homeless person, who engaged irregularly with services but on his own terms, and this right up to his death, other than to reflect that he is at peace now. Alan was well known to the various agencies dealing with the rough sleeper community and this was evidenced by the good turn out at his funeral. There are many descriptions given like him being a larger than life character, the life and soul of the party, his own man, the man with the guitar, a cantankerous ****** and a lovely man.
I remember one of my early encounters some years back while serving as a Street Pastor coming across Alan at the top of the High Street, in the early hours of the morning, playing his guitar. Another was when he came to our night shelter in the season just past and trying to quieten him down for the benefit of other guests and yet by the same token he could be a real gentleman, who did look out for other people. He often came to our Street Spirit soup kitchen, and whatever his mood (and it did vary) he invariably made an impact.
In his talk at the service the preacher made mention of Alan’s guitar playing and that he would sometimes play this at worship time for the Storehouse guests, one song in particular: “Now is the time to worship”. I wrote a few days back about a possible project: “Lockers for rough sleepers”. It was Alan in part that inspired the idea. He had got through a number of guitars due to not having a safe place to store. It would be a tribute to Alan if this project were to take off. Like many others in the town who met him, I will remember Alan with fondness, and as the preacher said: Alan was special.
Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God
One day ev’ry tongue will confess You are God
One day ev’ry knee will bow
Still the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose you now