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Facebook group set up to help homeless people in Kent

Hundreds of people have joined a Facebook group determined to help people living on the streets across Kent.

Naomi McMaster launched an appeal after being moved by the

deaths of two homeless men in Chatham over the festive period.

She got her cousin Kerry Ralph involved and the group has grown to more than 630 members within two weeks.

A volunteer goes through some of the donations received
A volunteer goes through some of the donations received

Mrs McMaster been inundated with donations of clothes, toiletries, blankets, and bedding after creating an Amazon ‘wish list’ in which people can buy essential items that will be handed out by volunteers.

They have already been out on missions in Maidstone and Gillingham, but with the latest figures showing more than 3,000 homeless people in Kent the 27-year-old is keen to expand the operation to Chatham, Strood, and Rochester, and as many areas as possible.

She told KentOnline: “I wanted to start it because of the recent deaths in Medway.

“They happened at what was a family time of the year and it really hit home.

“I have three kids myself and I would not like to see them or any of my family on the street.

“To be out on the street in the freezing cold so close to Christmas and to be alone must have been awful.

Some of the donations sent in to help the homeless
Some of the donations sent in to help the homeless

The mum-of-three admitted she has been amazed by the response to the campaign.

“I did not expect it to go as well as it has done,” she said.

“Within three days we had about £150 worth of goods from our Amazon wish list and donations of items from 30 people.

“We still have stuff coming in.

“If it wasn’t for the public we would not be able to do it.”

Among the items donated include new sleeping bags, yoga mats (so people don’t have to sleep on the ground), foil blankets, hand wipes, hats, gloves, socks, packs of soap and toothbrushes, and mini first aid kits as well as dog food, and dog blankets.

The group does not accept any money, but is seeking volunteers to hand out items donated.

Naomi McMaster
Naomi McMaster

It is particularly keen from men to volunteer to help chaperone those handing out goods.

Mrs McMaster, of Medway Road, Sheerness, said: “We are going to go out once or twice a week and if we can push it to three times a week we will.

“I want to get as many people involved as I can.

“I think it is important for the public to get involved and the more people take about it we should be able to do something.

“While people are still on the street we will help them as much as we can.”

More than 1,500 people have

signed a petition demanding Medway Council do more to help the homeless following the two deaths.

Meanwhile, as Kent braces itself for snow and ice Medway and Canterbury councils yesterday activated their Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) - when the forecast says temperatures are likely to drop to freezing or below for at least three consecutive days.

It involves the authorities providing emergency accommodation for people with nowhere to sleep.

In Canterbury anyone who sees a rough sleeper they believe needs assistance can call Catching Lives during the daytime on 07565 867091 or the 24-hour hotline on 01227 781879.

In Medway people people can approach the council's housing options team at Kingsley House, Gillingham, who will assess an individual’s circumstances and manage the arrangements for booking emergency accommodation.

Outside of office hours, they can call 01634 304400.

Greg asleep at the end of Solomons Road, next to the car park
Greg asleep at the end of Solomons Road, next to the car park

The action by councils comes after almost 20 people were taken in by a dedicated winter shelter in Dartford during its first week of operation.

The project began on January 2, as night-time temperatures went sub zero and Public Health England issued a ‘level three’ cold warning for the first time in a year.

At least four homeless people have taken up the offer of a hot dinner and a place to sleep each night since it started with it reaching its capacity of 10 people on two occasions.

Project administrator Michael Pethick said: “They get an overnight bed and a hot dinner, and a cooked breakfast the next morning.

“We try and direct them to other people that can help them in the longer term.

“They come in, then they move on – some have found temporary housing somewhere, some have moved in with a relative.

"One chap told me how grateful he is and what a difference it had made to him” - Dartford Churches Winter Shelter project administrator Michael Pethick

“It’s been exceptionally helpful. One chap told me how grateful he is and what a difference it had made to him.”

The project is funded by Dartford Churches and donations, and relies on volunteers.

They stay overnight between 10pm and 6.45am at different churches on each night, and will continue to do so until March 31.

On Sundays, the shelter is at the Net Church in Spital Street and on Mondays there is a meal at the Salvation Army in Hythe Street, but the overnight stay is at the Grace Outreach Church in East Hill.

On Tuesdays the shelter is at Christ Church, Cross Road, moving to Spital Street Methodist Church on Wednesdays, St Edmunds Church in St Edmunds Road on Thursdays, the Gateway Vineyard Church in Market Street on Fridays, and the Brent Methodist Church in St Vincents Road on Saturdays.

For more details call Mr Pethick on 07340 982925 or email dartfordwintershelter@gmail.com

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