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Gyula, latest rough sleeper to die in Westminster underpass

After homeless man was found dead at the same spot in February – in the shadow of parliament – ‘funny, charming and amiable’ former kitchen porter loses his life at 43

21 December, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Gyula Remes was found dead at Westminster Underground station

THE year in Westminster came to an end how it began – with a homeless man dead in the shadow of parliament.

Gyula Remes, 43, was living in Westminster Underground station for three months before he died on Tuesday.

Marcos Amaral Gourgel, 35, was found dead in the same underpass in February.

Another homeless man was also found dead in the borough this year, but his story did not get picked up nationally, despite his death being formally ascribed to the former legal high “spice”.

Friends of Mr Remes believe he had been smoking the synthetic drug that is considered by many addicts to be as, or more, powerful than heroin. Mr Remes had worked as a kitchen porter in Charing Cross and was a regular at the homelessness charity The Connection at St Martin’s, in Trafalgar Square.

Yesterday (Thursday) the charity des­cribed him as a “funny, charming, and amiable” man who always had a “smile on his face and was well-liked by everyone”. They had been trying to find him a night shelter while he found work.

Connection chief executive Pam Orchard said: “Gyula was a person with family and friends, strengths, passions, and hopes for the future. It is very sad that he has died just as his life was turning around. Under the wrong circumstances, homelessness could happen to almost anyone.”

The charity said 3,000 people were found sleeping rough on Westminster streets this year, up 17 per cent on last year. The cause was a “major shortage of affordable, stable and decent accommodation” and an increase in people “experiencing relationship breakdowns, abuse, or trauma”.

Austerity has also had its impact, the charity said: “Vital funding for support like drug and alcohol, mental health and supported accommodation services, to help people when they fall on hard times, has been chipped away.

“We also need investment in a mobile, street-based treatment service within the borough to enable those with mental health, drug and/or alcohol problems to get the longer-term support they so badly need.”

The charity welcomed the rough sleeping strategy, launched in August, which aims to end rough sleeping completely in 10 years.

Friends of Mr Remes had said that he had regularly gone to the Connection for help but had been told “the hostels are full, the hostels are full”.

Earlier this month, Westminster City Council leader Nickie Aiken told the annual meeting of the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association many hostel places were available for rough sleepers in central London. She said that both the homeless men found dead in Westminster in 2018 had hostel rooms assigned to them but they had chosen not to use them.

The difficulty facing the council was that homeless people did not want to leave the street because of “entrenched” problems, such as mental illness and addiction, she said.

In August Cllr Aiken responded to the government’s new strategy on the homeless, by saying: “In Westminster, we organise our teams to help those on the streets whether they are there in the daytime or at night. We send our outreach workers out 365 days a year and offer 400 hostel places a night.

“Having had one rough-sleeping death in Westminster formally ascribed to spice this year, I hope we see more concerted action to tackle this lethal epidemic.”

On Wednesday communities secretary James Brokenshire told parliament: “I am also committed to ensuring independent reviews into the deaths of rough sleepers are conducted, where appropriate, so that important lessons are learned. I will be asking Westminster City Council to refer this to their safeguarding adults board to look into the case.”

A council statement said: “The death of this rough sleeper was a tragedy and we will work with the police and other authorities to establish the cause.”

News of the death was told to MPs by Labour frontbencher Sir Keir Starmer. He said: “I’m given to understand that tragically one of those sleeping just outside the entrance and exit to this place died in the last 24 hours or so.”

British Transport Police found Mr Remes’s body around 11pm on Tuesday with officers administering first aid and taking him to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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