A solicitor acting for the Sisters of Mercy said concerns about their plan to turn an old pub into a homeless hostel are “misplaced”.
Last week the Gravesend Messenger revealed that the religious group, which is dedicated to helping those in need, wants to convert The Rising Sun pub in Seymour Road, Northfleet, into somewhere for up to 12 homeless people to live.
Quickly, a petition was set up and signed by hundreds of people, fearful that “paedophiles, ex-convicts, and people with problems” would be on their doorstep.
It quickly escalated when rumour spread across social media sites that it would be a halfway house for paedophiles and another petition was set up and signed by a further 365 people.
This was then taken down when last week’s story was posted onto our website.
This week James Carter, the solicitor acting on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, told the Messenger: “For over a quarter of a century the Sisters of Mercy have been providing homeless accommodation in Gravesend from two premises. The housing provision meets a need because they are always full – they have turned people away.
“Memories are short, but last winter we had a very hard one and February was particularly cold. On the same night in the Aylesford area, two homeless men, both in their 40s, died of exposure. Local authorities are unable to meet the need.
“Everyone has a place in society, even the homeless. The Sisters of Mercy should be congratulated on making provision for people who are obviously in need and they should have public support.”
He also addressed fears over extra traffic on the small, narrow roads, adding: “It is most unlikely that those accommodated will have motor vehicles.”
Referrals come to the House of Mercy from local authorities and other housing charities. It does not house registered sex offenders nor anyone sectioned under the Mental Health Act immediately following their discharge from hospital.
Ward councillor John Loughlin told the Messenger that several petitioners emailed the House of Mercy to apologise for signing the petition “as they were misled by the false information they were given before they signed”.
Mr Carter added: “The Sisters of Mercy’s object is charitable and should be supported by the local community.
“The community can rest assured that hostel rules will apply and any individual is immediately removed if there is any violence, and there are strict rules against drinking and drugs.
“Any breach of the rules and the individual is asked to leave.
“The other two Houses of Mercy in Gravesend have been run for well over 20 years without adverse incidents. The petitioners concerns are misplaced.”