THE 17 homeless people who died the streets of Brighton and Hove last year were given the dignity in death they did not have in life.

Friends, families and support workers who knew those who perished on the city’s streets paid their respects at a memorial event for the city’s lost rough sleepers.

Seventeen rough sleepers died in Brighton and Hove last year - the youngest was just 23 and the average age just 30. Most died from avoidable conditions exacerbated by cold weather.

Dr Tim Worthley - the homeless doctor who supports the city’s growing community of rough sleepers from the Arch Health CIC in Ivory Place, Brighton, organised the event to give those who lost their lives the dignity in dying that their days and nights in doorways had been robbed of.

The homeless community and the professionals who work with them gathered to talked about those they had lost, light candles in their memory and share their thoughts and frustrations.

Many of those at the informal service had lost many friends amongst the 17 who died last year - the youngest of which was just 23 years old.

One of those paying their respects was Paul Banbrick - who is homeless himself. Paul has lost his partner, baby son and another close friend on the streets within the past few years.

Dr Worthley said: “There are a number of reasons why this is something we have wanted to do for a long time.

“The biggest reason we wanted to do this was as a mark of respect.

“So we can pay our respects to people close to us who we have lost over the years, particularly in the last couple of years.

“So much about being homeless is about losing dignity and respect. That situation is played out day after day.

“And in their deaths as well.

“I hope we can give these people some dignity in death even if they didn’t have it in life.

“I hope this gives people the opportunity for people who have lost people to remember them in some way.

“People take for granted the opportunity to go to a funeral after someone dies.

“That’s often not possible when you’re in a hostel or on the streets and have pressing concerns of your own life and death to get through each day.

“This is a community that has been losing people every day.

“Homeless people can be invisible and their deaths can be invisible.”

A nurse at Arch Health, who asked to be named only as Ness, wiped away tears as she looked through the list of names of patients they lost in 2017.

She said: “It is just too many.

“The youngest was 23. The oldest in their 60s. It is no age at all.”

She said that far from being able to put her emotions aside at the end of the day she carried her concern over those she treated with her every night.

Former rough sleeper Adey, who is now in temporary accommodation, said he was shocked to hear the names of many people he knew.

“There are people in that list I knew,” he said.

“There are probably many more because you don’t always know people by their full names.

“If you saw their faces you’d be even more shocked.

“I do want to pay my respects. We are part of a community, but I might not know them or their families well enough to go to a funeral.

“There are just more and more and more names and it is so sad.

“The fact that so many people are dying on our streets is pure evil.

“I think it is important to have this for people to share in this. But a lot of homeless people I know didn’t want to come because the reality is too tough to deal with.”

A homeless man who did not wish to be named said: “I attend Dr Tim’s surgery and it is a crucial thing.

“To go to a funeral would be an impossible thing for many people like me.

“You feel like you cant expect people to trust you.

“I spent about two years on the streets and I can see how easily people’s lives are snatched away.

“I’m off the streets now- I hate that expression ‘sofa surfing’, but I’ll stay with people, but I know a lot of people who’ve just run fallen through the cracks and disappeared from the streets.”

The latest government figures show homelessness is rising fast in Brighton and Hove.

Between October 1 and November 30 last year there were 178 people sleeping rough in the city - up almost a quarter on the previous year.

Paul Banbrick has lost more than many on the streets of Brighton.

A rough sleeper himself for many years he met his partner Caroline Ann Mary when they were both sleeping rough.

United by their tough lives and both heavy drinkers, they fell in love. But Caroline - whilst heavily pregnant - died, taking their baby with her three years ago.

In December his brother in law Sean died from a heart attack while sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton.

Despite this double heartbreak Paul is now sober.

He said: “We were all on the streets when they died.

“Caroline died and the baby was stillborn. He was going to be called Paul after me.

“I met Caroline on the streets.

“She’d had a tough upbringing.

“She’d already lost her partner Craig Palmer who was homeless and murdered.

“She died from the drink.

“I was a drinker too, but I’m not any longer because I can’t waste my life when they lost theirs.”

When Caroline’s brother Sean died just over a month ago, Paul was faced with another hurdle.

“Sean died of a heart attack,” said Paul.

“I put their names on the top of the tree because that’s where they are now.

They are with the angels .

Caroline used to be a nurse, a healthcare assistant at the Royal Sussex County.

“She used to help others before she lost control of her own life.

“We were hoping for a better life together.

“But they’re not even the only people I’ve seen die on the streets.

“They were my family so I wanted to come here for them.

“To tell you the truth I can’t even begin to think about the others.

“Families are so subjective. Most of the people on the streets have problems with theirs so can’t go to a funeral.

“This is fantastic to have this memorial. I needed something to remember the family I have lost and to say goodbye to them in a meaningful way.

Dr Worthley said he was astounded by the positive change in Paul, saying he was unrecognisable to a year ago.

He added: “He has been through so much more than most people can imagine.”

The city council’s lead councillor for housing Clare Moonan admitted tackling the issue of homelessness was a “huge challenge”.

Andy Winter, chairman of Brighton Housing Trust said he was only surprised the figures were not worse.

But politicians and campaigners agreed that there were countless charities and support services in the city doing everything they can to support those living on the streets.

Thursday’s memorial service was also an opportunity for those who dedicate their lives to the apparently thankless task of trying to help to open up. Dr Worthley said that the demands of working with the homeless community and their complex problems had a daily impact.

He said: “For those people working with the homeless community it can take its toll.

“I know that it takes its toll on me.”

On Thursday the Green councillors’ motion calling for the winter shelter to be open all year was passed, after thousands of people signed a petition on the subject.

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, writing in Saturday’s Argus about the homeless crisis said: “People who are sleeping on our streets deserve better. We need that intervention, and we need it now, because continuing down the same road on housing would be an act of wilful cruelty by this Government.”