The family of a homeless man who was found dead in a Leighton Buzzard park last month say they have been staggered by the amount of donations pledged towards the cost of his funeral.
Stephen Carver was discovered in Parson’s Close Recreation Ground shortly after 5pm on Thursday, May 23.
Stephen, aged 51, had formerly resided at the Black Horse shelter on North Street and regularly returned to the shelter for meals. At the time of his death, which is not being treated as suspicious, he was living in a tent by Clipstone Brook.
Today (Monday), the fundraising total had reached £4,354 of its original £1,000 goal, but the public is being encouraging to continue donating as any surplus will go towards a planned trust fund in Stephen’s name aimed at preventing further street deaths in Leighton Buzzard.
A family statement issued by Stephen’s daughter Aimie to the LBO said: “We, Stephen’s family have been totally overwhelmed by the kind support from the people of Leighton Buzzard and from our dad’s friends, over his recent sad death.
“The outpouring has been phenomenal and the amount of donations received for him have been absolutely staggering.
“Our father’s personal circumstances were very complex to say the least, yet despite his struggles he remained loved by us his family and by so many throughout.
“In our father’s memory, Stephen’s friends (in conjunction with ourselves) are talking about setting up a trust fund ‘in his name’. This fund will be administered by a strong-headed radical-thinking committee with an objective of trying to prevent further street deaths in Leighton Buzzard, and to try and help those who fall on difficult times.
“May we take the opportunity to thank everyone who had donated or expressed their condolences to our dad.
“May we particularly thank the staff and volunteers at the Black Horse, the Baptist Church, the Salvation Army, and other local support groups who have all helped our father at various times during his difficulties.
“And finally a big thank you to Chris Keen who has been so helpful and who has been paramount in pulling together this magnificent fund.”
Fundraising coordinator Chris Keen has been a friend of Stephen’s for many years, since his childhood,
He said: “Stephen was a son of Leighton Buzzard, one of our own. I first got to know him back in the mid 80s when he would come to watch local bands with us and attend local discos at the Bossard Hall and we’d all hang out together – sometimes a group of up to 50.
“Leighton in them days was close knit and everyone knew everyone, Stephen no exception.
“As a teenager Steve was a skinhead and a very smart one at that, with his drainpipe jeans and Dr Marten boots. Groups of us Leighton lads would go up to Yarmouth on Bank Holiday weekends, punk rockers, skinheads and mods alike.
“Locally there was no hostility between the respective groups in them days as quite simply we were Leighton and we all knew each other. There was always something to do, something going on, somewhere to attend and Stephen was very much one of the boys who hung out – a son of Leighton.”
He added: “More recently life became complicated for Stephen, his many friends have tried to support him where possible with work and by donating money to him, but sadly his life and personal circumstances deteriorated through alcohol dependency and there was no magic answer. Even so and throughout his struggles, Stephen remained polite, popular and well loved.”
Chris explained that he is working in conjunction with the family in hoping to pull together a Stephen Carver Trust Fund.
He explained: “The initial idea of mine is to put together a very strong committee of professional people and strong heads, the likes of which has never been seen in Leighton Buzzard before, and for that committee to identify what is lacking or falling short for the homeless in Leighton Buzzard, with a planned objective of trying to prevent any more homeless-related deaths on the streets.”
Of the funeral fundraising total, Chris added: “It’s a magnificent amount, and still climbing. Any surplus will go towards the proposed trust fund in Stephen’s name, so the message is ‘please keep donating’.”
To donate to the online fundraiser visit www.gofundme.com/stephen-carvers-funeral
Stephen’s funeral will be at 11.45am on Friday, June 14 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Leighton Buzzard, followed by a cremation at Bierton Crematorium, near Aylesbury.