Today I attended a funeral, as I do most months. It was of Roy White, aged 40, a homeless guy I met a few years ago and on a number of occasions since. There was a good turnout of those wanting to pay their respects and say goodbye, and that is what people did. It was a dignified occasion that was well led, where moving tributes were made. One of the sobering observations from my work in the homeless field is I can affirm through experience the average life expectancy of a homeless person is a lot less than one who is housed, for in recent years many of my homeless friends have died early, likely linked to their homeless situation, and this has made me sad, especially as many died without having fulfilled their full potential. There were occasions Roy had been housed in the time I knew him but without sustaining it, including at the end, but for much of that time he was rough sleeping. I didn’t know him well enough to know precisely what caused him to become and remain homeless, and precisely what help was offered and how it was received. I believe he had a loving family and had held down a steady job, but I know he had a problem with alcohol addiction and my experience is that and rough sleeping is not a good combination.
On the occasions I met him, there were things that stood out. I found Roy to be invariably courteous and considerate, and while I was sad when he wasn’t in a good place, I still found he could ooze positivity. While we rarely had long conversations, I found those we did have were usually pleasant. I also found Roy to be kind to others, whatever their station in life. He struck me as a loyal friend and at least two rough sleeper guys who attended today’s funeral could testify to this. It is salutary when one attends a funeral of one who died while relatively young and who had been experiencing, at least up to recently, homelessness and alcoholism. The older I get the more I reflect on deaths that appear to be inexplicable (I believe he died of natural causes though) but that he is in the Lord’s hands (I believe near the end he found faith) and into these we commend him. As I think of what more to say that is meaningful, I don’t find it easy, but I can say despite for a good part of the time I knew him his situation was far from ideal, Roy has left behind many fond memories as well as sad ones, and while he could hardly be put into the saint category, he did make a positive mark on the lives of many and this was evidenced today. He will be sorely missed, especially by family and friends left behind. We think of them. Rest in Peace Roy.