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Tributes paid to 'kind-hearted' rough sleeping dad who died after collapsing in Ilford

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:22 05 November 2018

Sodhi Singh passed away on November 3, 2018, the Ilford Salvation Army has confirmed. Photo: Anja King

Sodhi Singh passed away on November 3, 2018, the Ilford Salvation Army has confirmed. Photo: Anja King

Archant

Sodhi Singh died at the King George Hospital on Saturday, November 3. He is the tenth person known to have died homeless in Redbridge since October last year.

A dad with the “biggest heart” who died after more than a decade of sleeping rough in Ilford has been named locally as Sodhi Singh.

Sodhi, 50, died at the King George Hospital, in Goodmayes, on Saturday morning (November 3).

He was admitted to hospital the day before after being found collapsed near Lynton House, in High Road, where he used to stay.

This makes Sodhi the tenth person known to have died homeless in the borough since October last year.

His next of kin have been notified and he leaves behind a wife and a 25-year-old daughter in his home city of Jalander, in Punjab, India.

Sodhi’s cousin Parminder Singh Dhillion, who lives in Watford, was shocked to learn of his death and that he was sleeping rough.

He said: “We can’t believe that things had become so difficult.

“Had we known we would have helped without a second thought.
“Sodhi was a very kind-hearted man, always making people smile, he was everyone’s friend.

“Sodhi never had a bad word to say about anyone and neither did anyone about him.

“There was/is a lot of love for Sodhi. 
“Wish we could have done more, a huge loss for his friends and family.

“You weren’t alone and we wish you’re known that.”

Sodhi spent his winters at the Salvation Army night shelter, in Clements Road, and used the services of The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road.

He also relied on food and clothing donated by charities such as the Sikh Empowerment Voluntary Association (Seva) and Serving Humanity.

Ilford Salvation Army captain John Clifton said: “Mr Singh was a gentle and kind man - loved by so many.

“Please remember those who are grieving his death in your prayers, particularly those who are also living on the street.”

Mankamal Singh is a member of the sponsoring committee member of pioneering pop-up hostel Project Malachi.

Posting on Facebook, he wrote: “I met Sodhi in 2011.

“He had a big drink problem and had the biggest heart I had come across.

He continued: “Sodhi had a trade once.

“He worked as a concrete finisher but as working laws changed his ability to find any employment diminished and he was stuck in a paperless, stateless situation with no funds to use the extortionate immigration layers.”

He added: “Honest and transparent he was about his addiction, deep down inside he knew he was a ticking time bomb waiting to die, which he openly used to say.”

Despite his repeated efforts to give up drinking, which would last for several days before something small would come along and throw him off.

“When people end up back on the streets, making rational decisions are impossible for them,” Mankamal added.

He said that financial support for Project Malachi is vital to bring “the right support for people like Sodhi”.

Tahir Butt, Serving Humanity’s community engagement officer, knew Sodhi for more than a year and a half.

A fluent Punjabi-speaker, Tahir helped interpet when the Recorder interviewed Sodhi last month, for a yet-to-be-published feature.

During the interview, Sodhi said he used to be a farmer back in Jalander, growing corn, potatoes and sunflowers.

In 1992, Sodhi decided to leave amid political strife.

He flew to Moscow then Malta and eventually travelled to Greece by ship.

In 1995, he was smuggled by lorry to the UK where he claimed political asylum.

But he withdrew from the asylum system to earn a better living working cash-in-hand in motorway construction.

In 2006, he lost his job, his home and became destitute.

“I’ve spent half my life in India and the other half in the UK,” Sodhi told the Recorder at the time, asked what he would like for his future.

“But they don’t want me in India and they don’t want me in the UK.

Half-jokingly, he added: “If they could send me somewhere else, that would be good.”

Speaking to Recorder, Sonia Lynch, of the Welcome Centre, said: “It’s really awful and tragic that we have lost another relatively young man to the ravages of homelessness.

“There needs to be an urgent change in government policy, so we don’t lose any more lives of those who are ‘stuck in the system’, or have no where else to go but the streets.”

“We fear that more lives will be lost if changes are not made.”

Taking to Twitter, the Seva said: “We as a local community need to do much, much more to help the needy out there to prevent further deaths like this.

“May God bless his soul - Waheguru.”

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Redbridge Together

Redbridge Together aims to raise £500,000 for two projects at the heart of helping the homeless in the borough.

Two thirds of all money raised will go towards the creation of pioneering pop-up hostel Project Malachi and one third to The Welcome Centre day centre for the homeless.

Project Malachi aims to create a temporary hostel for rough sleepers and homeless people using recycled shipping containers on the site of a crumbling former funeral directors in Chadwick Road to rebuild their lives.

The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, offers wide ranging services from laundry to counselling.

You can support by donating money, raising funds, displaying Redbridge Together promotional material in businesses or offering work placements.

Redbridge Together is an association an association between Ilford Salvation Army, The Welcome Centre, Ilford BID, the Ilford Recorder and Redbridge Council.

To get involved email: aaron.walawalkar@archant.co.uk

Donate £3 by texting LIFE to 70145 or at Crowdfunder.co.uk/RedbridgeTogether

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