Copenhagen makes space for homeless in Assistens Kirkegard cemetery

Copenhagen's homeless will now find their final resting place not far from such historic greats as Hans Christian Andersen and Soren Kierkegaard. The city has dedicated a burial plot to the city's homeless in the Mindeparken section of the Assistens Kirkegard in Nørrebro. The social affairs minister, the deputy mayor and a group of about 75 homeless attended the ceremony.

Until now the homeless without family or relatives have been buried by the city wherever there was space in any of the five municipal cemeteries.

The initiative to have a special place for the homeless was started two years ago with the support of various private well-wishers, the artist Leif Sylvester Petersen, who donated a bronze sculpture, the Vor Frue Kircke which will pay for burial expense and the city itself. The ashes of a homeless man from Greenland, known as Isaken, who died at the age of 45, were the first to be laid to rest in the plot.

It is estimated that there are over 5,000 homeless in Denmark, half of them living in Copenhagen and most of them have lived on the streets for over a year.

When it was first consecrated in 1760 the Assistens cemetery was far outside the city walls and because it was so far from the residential heart of the city it was looked on as the paupers' graveyard for the first 25 years of its existence. It was only by the end of the 18th century that it became a favourite place to be buried.