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River Medway homeless camp leaves Maidstone residents in despair

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Residents are in despair about noise levels coming from a group of homeless people on the bank of the River Medway in Maidstone.

There has been a small tented encampment a few hundreds yards from the Tovil footbridge on the Fant side of the river for four weeks.

Michele Sinclair, who lives in Roseholme - the row of homes above the camp, said: "They make a lot of noise at night, shouting and yelling, sometimes at four in the morning."

The encampment of homeless people
The encampment of homeless people

She said: "It wakes us all up. We are at the end of our tether over his.

"My son Jack is autistic and he's particularly sensitive to noise. He's having a meltdown!"

Alan Newman lives in Clifford Way, about 200m from the tents, said: "The camp has been there for a month, and has grown to three tents.

"There are four men who seem not so speak English and a female, who said she was just visiting, from Lithunaia."

The tents' occupants are using the local bushes as a toilet.

Mr Newman said: "There are major health risks to the occupants and to local residents."

Alan Newman likes to run along the towpath
Alan Newman likes to run along the towpath

Mr Newman, an athlete who likes to train by running along the Maidstone Riverside path, where the camp is situated, said: "It should be a nice place for walkers and cyclists and a family picnic.

"Instead it is a foul smelling, rubbish infested eyesore."

Fant ward Councillor Margaret Rose (Lab) said: "The situation sounds pretty dreadful.

"I have contacted the relevant council officers and I'm hopeful something will be done in the next few days."

Previously a council spokesman said it had been unable to help the men into housing because they had not provided passport and ID details, but Mr Newman asked: "If they refuse to identify themselves, surely this must be an urgent matter for the UK Immigration Services?

"The towpath is considered a council park. Surely it can enforce its own byelaws against littering and lighting fires?"

Cllr Margaret Rose
Cllr Margaret Rose

A spokesman for Maidstone council said: "The Maidstone Borough Council Community Protection and Outreach Teams are working with the people who are currently rough sleeping on the banks of the River Medway at Fant in an attempt to gain the required documentation so that they can gain access to accommodation in the area.

"MBC staff are visiting them on a daily basis – providing bin sacks and water.

"We also know that four rough sleepers from that area are using the MBC Daycentre to access washing and bathroom facilities.

"Unfortunately until they have the necessary paperwork they are not been able to exercise their EU Treaty Rights and unable to claim housing benefits so accommodation options are very limited.

"We continue to liaise with the immigration service in order to try and resolve the situation.

"The Council has developed services to tackle the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in the borough to help them rebuild their lives.

"Within the last 12 months we have seen rough sleeping reduce by 80% across the borough, and we continue to support many individuals with complex needs who now live in their own accommodation.

"This approach has seen a reduction in anti-social behaviour and other associated issues and been recognised by partner agencies, including the police."

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