The man who was found dead in the porch of Brunswick Methodist Church on Sunday morning has been identified as Martin Woodley, of Bonymaen. According to the local paper, he was just 37.
This is terribly sad. I would like to offer my condolences to his family and invite readers to remember them in your prayers. Some of the comments sent to the paper have been very unkind about the church, which is very unfair. The comments that some members of the church have made about the problems they’ve had with the homeless were very unfortunate in the context, but these are ordinary folk unused to dealing with the media. The fact is that members of Brunswick have shown kindness and forbearance to the homeless over recent years. They have offered food and practical help when they have been able to, despite the inevitable struggles about limited resources. The church provides a welcome and a base for asylum seekers in Swansea, and the minister there has made some real sacrifices to support those in need. It is simply not true to accuse these good people of being indifferent to the plight of others. Just one example from my own recent experience. One Sunday evening, I was taking the service at Brunswick. I arrived early, to find the stewards trying to rouse a homeless man they had just found unconscious in the porch. We called an ambulance and waited with him until the paramedic arrived. When he eventually came round, all those who’d tried to help were roundly abused for their trouble before the man hurried off up St Helen’s Road.
Unfortunately, for all the kindness of the folk at Brunswick they can hardly be blamed for being impatient with the unpleasant task of having to clean up human excrement from the entrances of their building, or of being unable to access their premises because of an abusive crowd loitering on the steps. It would be wrong to confuse these feelings of impatience with an uncaring attitude. I know and love this church, and I know that they care very deeply.
Instead of casting aspersions at these good people, wouldn’t it be better to try to answer the deeper questions about how we as a whole community will respond to the difficulties of those who sleep rough among us.