Homeless man identified

by Richard on January 28, 2008

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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Methodist Preacher 01.28.08 at 6:35 pm

Sorry, that is a really awful thing to happen. Our love to all.

2

Art 01.28.08 at 8:26 pm

Prayers for his family…

3

Olive Morgan 01.28.08 at 10:41 pm

This problem of the homeless is a tough one, as those who have visited my blog recently will know. It would be much better if we were able to offer a place where they could shelter for the night but, as the Salvation Army will testify, this is not as easy as it sounds. Town centre churches often bear the brunt of this problem and still carry on caring. Tell the people of Brunswick that we are holding them in our prayers.

4

J 01.29.08 at 1:02 am

I’m not sure what “sleeping rough on the porch” is, but honestly, homeless shelters themselves have problems with homeless people refusing to follow rules or otherwise behaving in a way that creates resistance and hostility from the neighbors; it comes with the territory. People who are that offended by a remark about that problem almost certainly have never been anywhere near a homeless shelter, though I’m sure they feel quite sanctimonious in their conviction that somebody (as long as it’s not them) ought to do something. Ignore them.

5

Bene D 01.29.08 at 1:47 am

Reporters want shocked people to be honest Richard.
People without media experience are gems.
People are coming to church, a police call is out, the reporter doesn’t have to work very hard at all.
The story is right there.

People who are shocked and saddened (and rightfully so) make good sound bites and copy.
Thing is most of us don’t find dead people on our steps, we are so removed by yellow tape/tarp at a crime scene, accident, death, incidence…

I’m not seeing the church members portrayed badly, just very human, in looking for media accounts I found 8. I can appreciate how frustrating this has to be for you as a superintendent, and the pastor to the pastor; death isn’t tidy, excrement, urine and abuse isn’t tidy, homelessness is not tidy, shocked and saddened people aren’t tidy. Reporters can be untidy.

Judging by the response of Mr. Woodley’s family and friends the kind efforts of the church is coming through.

6

Sean 02.04.08 at 1:38 am

Just visiting via the link on the Evening Post’s comments to the news story regarding Woody’s death. We saw him just a few days before at the coffee bar at Zac’s Place, in George Street. As he left, he thanked us for the hospitality as always and looked forward to the same time next week and a hot meal. Within Swansea, many individuals and several churches actively engage in assisting folks in similar situations to Woody, many more encourage the work that goes on in quiet ways. Woody was one of the many that appreciated these efforts by all - whether the gates be opened or closed. It’s a sad time - in the past six months we have lost about six of the rough sleeper / street dwelling community.

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