Published: 00:00, 24 December 2016
| Updated: 13:10, 24 December 2016
A rough sleeper was found dead outside a shop doorway today.
The man, in his late 40s, is understood to have been discovered by security guards near the Poundland shop and Central Theatre at 11.40am as shoppers flooded the area for last-minute Christmas gifts.
His name has not been released although the non-profit group One Big Family says he attended its Christmas party for the homeless last Sunday.
One Big Family founder Liz Shaw said: "We are all shocked and absolutely devastated by today's awful news. We saw the gentleman on Thursday and he attended our Christmas party for the homeless last Sunday. In fact, he was the last to leave. He said he had had a great time."
She added: "The homeless crisis in Medway is worsening. There are no winter shelters or hostels until January - when an emergency shelter opens in Magpie Hall Road.
"Medway council's homeless headcount is hugely inaccurate. It says it found 15 people sleeping rough. But we believe there are at least 100 without homes and sleeping on the streets.
Her organisation distributes 'essential items and a friendly ear' to those living on the streets in Medway and London.
Cllr Vince Maple, leader of Medway council's labour group, Tweeted: "This is terrible news and highlights just how urgent the need to tackle homelessness is. My thoughts are with all concerned."
It is not known if the man's death was natural or suspicious.
Kent Police said it received a report of concern for the welfare of a person at around 11.40am. Officers and ambulance crews were still at the scene at 1.30pm.
The man’s identity has not been confirmed.
Moderators of the Facebook page The Original ME Medway Postcode have asked members not to post pictures from the incident. The photographs used with this article are all stock images.
Carrie Walker wrote: “Sadly someone has passed away in Chatham High Street. There are police, fire and ambulance in attendance.
“Out of respect to the man, please do not post pictures on this group as lots were taking pictures and staring in shock.”
On Christmas Day, Gillingham couple Jules and Andy Feist toured the Medway Towns handing out food to the homeless.
Jules, who runs Crazy Face Painting, said on Facebook: "I saw someone had pitched a tent and was living in it on the roundabout by Medway City Estate so I thought I would do them a dinner today.
"I got a bit carried away and did up more dinners, puddings and cheese platters so hubby and I set off to give them out before we had our family Christmas dinner.
"The tent had gone when we got there so we went back to Gillingham and found a couple of homeless men in the High Street.
"We then checked the Great Lines, Balmoral, the Strand and behind the Black Lion where we had been told some homeless people were.
"We gave out all my dinners to the homeless and the last two went to two elderly gentlemen at Belle Air Flats who, although had a roof over their heads, had no Christmas dinner and were on there own.
"I hope the lady who slept rough outside WHSmith last night enjoyed the goodies we left for her for when she came back. Our own people should not be living like this."
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