Homeless man who spoke out against Suella dies on doorstep of Burger King

Homeless man who spoke out against Suella dies on doorstep of Burger King

Richard O’Brien died not long after speaking out against Suella Braverman’s homelessness comments (Picture: Media Wales)

A rough sleeper who spoke out against Suella Braverman’s claim that homelessness is a ‘lifestyle choice’ died on a Burger King doorstep soon after.

Richard O’Brien was found dead on November 27 in Cardiff, Wales, after becoming unwell during the night.

Earlier in the month, the 56-year-old told WalesOnline he disagreed with then home secretary Braverman, saying being homeless ‘isn’t a lifestyle choice’.

He said at the time: ‘I wouldn’t agree with that [Braverman’s comments]. I’m not saying people don’t have places – some people do, and whether they want to choose to be on the pavement, that’s up to them.

‘But the fact is, there are people out here who haven’t got anywhere – and can’t get anywhere, so they have no choice, they have to be on this pavement.’

Friends of Mr O’Brien, known as Paddy due to his Irish roots, have left touching messages on an electric box near the Burger King restaurant where he died.

One note reads: ‘He was a funny little thing, he used to make you giggle, he was a nice person, a really nice man.’

Tributes have also been paid online by people who had met him over the years.

Tributes left for Mr O’Brien close to the Burger King restaurant where he died (Picture: Media Wales)

Katie Dalton of Cymorth Cymru, a representative body for providers of homelessness, housing and support services in Wales, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, about a time she helped take him to hospital.

She said: ‘I’m gutted to hear that Richard has died. He seemed like a really lovely man. I recently took him to hospital after seeing him struggling to walk in Sophia Gardens.

‘He told me (with a wry smile) he had fallen the night before, while dancing in the rain.

‘We got talking about where he was from [County Limerick, Ireland] and his eyes lit up when he discovered I have loads of family there.

‘I told him I was flying over in a few days for my grandma’s 93rd birthday and he asked me to pass on his regards to her. I did, and she was delighted.’

Mr O’Brien said he had been homeless on and off for 30 years (Picture: Media Wales)

She added: ‘I only spent a couple of hours with Richard, but it was a pleasure to hang out with him. He thanked me for my kindness, but it was me who felt grateful – for a lovely chat with a lovely man. He made me laugh and he gave a great hug.’

Mr O’Brien told WalesOnline he’d been homeless on and off for 30 years, first in Bristol, then London, then Cardiff.

He avoided sleeping in tents due to fears someone could set it alight and when night fell each day he’d look for cardboard, blankets and a sleeping bag.

South Wales Police confirmed a man had died after an ambulance was called to Queen Street in the early hours of November 27.

They said there were ‘no suspicious circumstances’ and enquiries were being made to trace next of kin.

Braverman said homelessness is a ‘lifestyle choice’ (Picture: Jessica Taylor)

Braverman, who was later sacked as Home Secretary, sparked outrage when she said she wanted to stop homeless people sheltering in tents in public spaces.

She said Britain ‘cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents’ occupied by people who she claimed cause ‘nuisance and distress’ and are ‘living on the streets as a lifestyle choice’.

Ms Dalton said there were ‘many reasons, often complex, why someone becomes homeless’.

‘This includes experience of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. But the underlying structural causes are poverty, insufficient social housing and support, and an inadequate welfare system.

Friends of Mr O’Brien left heartfelt messages on cardboard (Picture: Media Wales)

‘Politicians need to take a long, hard look at their priorities and language. Sleeping on the streets is not a lifestyle choice.’

She added: ‘Today is a reminder that, despite living in one of the wealthiest parts of the world, people are still dying on our streets. I’m incredibly sad about Richard. And I’m angry as hell.’

Mr O’Brien is reportedly the third homeless person to die on the streets of Cardiff this year.

Meanwhile, in London, a McDonald’s security guard was sacked after a video showed him mopping the pavement where a homeless man was sitting, causing the man’s bedding to become wet.

The footage, filmed on Saturday night, also shows the guard kicking the bedding.

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