Published: 11:45, 13 August 2021
| Updated: 15:31, 13 August 2021
Tributes have been paid to a former rough sleeper who died in a river tragedy.
A large-scale search was launched after the popular figure failed to resurface after entering the water on Friday, July 9.
Tragically, his body was later recovered from the water near House of Fraser in the town centre.
Mr Curtis was extremely popular among family and friends, as well as people he met while completing a work and life programme.
An Ashford Borough Council (ABC) spokesman said the 34 year-old was "turning his life around after overcoming huge personal difficulties, setting an example to others in his situation".
“Jason approached Ashford Borough Council as homeless on several occasions following a lot of chaos in his life, including a prison sentence and regular rough sleeping," he continued.
“In February 2020 he again approached us and, with the ‘Everybody In’ Government directive prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic designed to provide accommodation to every rough sleeper, we were able to offer Jason temporary accommodation.
“From this time and working closely with Jason, it was clear that he needed ongoing and regular support, to help him overcome his past personal issues and get him on track to doing the things he told us he wanted to do. After several failed attempts, Jason began to feel more motivated and look at making positive changes in his life.
“He agreed to attend his first appointment at the local substance misuse clinic and attend a GP appointment made for him to address his ill health and poor wellbeing.
"These were two major steps for Jason that showed a big impact on his outlook, so much so, he decided he was ready to begin a Maker Life ‘Life and Work Skills Programme’ in February 2021, where he made friends, got involved in the training courses and begin to feel he was moving things on in his life.
"Jason continued to attend his appointments at the clinic and stayed the whole Maker Life course, obtaining a certificate and praise for his endurance and completion, given the many struggles he had begun to overcome during this time.
"We will all miss our friend Jason but feel happy in the knowledge that, despite his sad and untimely death, he had achieved successes that he told us just before his passing, he never believed he could achieve."
A spokesperson for Ashford Together, which provided one of the courses that Mr Curtis passed, described him as a "truly remarkable man who positively impacted the lives of the project staff and participants".
"We are grateful to have met Jason, he will truly be missed by all of us," it added.
Justin Burden, a worker with Bright City Church, worked with Mr Curtis in a number of capacities, including as his mentor for the last year.
He said: "I was devastated at the news of the passing of Jason and would like to pass on my condolences to his friends, family and those that he came into contact with.
"It was such an encouragement to see the progress that he was making especially with the Maker Life project that he completed recently. He improved the life of many that he came in contact with and will be sorely missed by many people, especially myself."
A fundraiser has now been set up to pay for Mr Curtis' funeral costs and to help his bereaved family.
Dan Morgan, who set up the fundraiser, described him as a "happy go lucky guy who would help anyone and had a heart of gold".
"On that terrible Friday Jason jumped into the river Medway in Maidstone, failed to resurface and lost his life, he was only young and had his whole life ahead of him; this is something we as family were not prepared for at all; no one dreams of having to plan their son's or brother's funeral at such a young age," he said.
"Jason loved life and he was a family man, he was always protective over his nieces and nephews who he loved with all his heart.
"Jason had big dreams and now he will never be able to live them but we would love to give him a final send off he would be proud of. Please donate as much or as little as you can".
To donate to the fundraiser, click here.