Published: 00:01, 12 January 2018
A man living in a tent in a DIY store car park has been found dead.
Neil Martin was tragically discovered in his makeshift home at Wickes on St Peter’s Street, Maidstone just yards away from shoppers.
He had been feeling unwell and police are not treating his death as suspicious.
The 49-year-old was known as a regular fixture in Jubilee Square in Maidstone where he sat most days.
A memorial featuring flowers, cards, and candles have been placed at a tree on the square.
Kay Best, Mr Martin’s sister, said: “We went to meet his friends when they were putting the flowers by the tree.
“There were people sobbing in our arms because of how well known he was.
“There was always a smile on his face, no matter what problems he had.”
The 54-year-old said her brother was never moved on from the car park because he was always pleasant to staff and customers and never caused any trouble.
She said Mr Martin was a happy child but drifted from his family as the years passed.
Although he lived on the streets, he occasionally visited his family to check in and they would come to see him in town to keep in touch.
Sadly, he suffered a stroke several years ago, leaving him in pain and relying on a stick to walk.
Mr Martin was found on Tuesday, January 2, when Storm Eleanor battered the UK.
Dennis Mccleave, 32, who knew Mr Martin for the three years he has been living on the streets, said: “He was as good as gold. He would always try to help people and was a lovely gentleman.
“He used to say hello to everyone and people used to come over and give him a cuddle.
“To be honest he was like a father figure to me on the streets, I used to call him dad.”
Mr Martin was a long-time user of the Maidstone Day Centre, in Knightrider Street, which offers support for homeless people.
Zofia Grzymala, centre manager, said: “He was a lovely bloke and we are all very shocked he was gone.”
The town has a winter shelter in operation and Maidstone and The Weald MP Helen Grant was due to visit today to meet staff and volunteers. It is run by several Maidstone churches.