A single mother says she is regularly feeding a disabled man who lives on the streets in Rochester and Chatham. The man, who is in a wheelchair, often shelters for the night in a car park.
Tracie Stocker, from Rainham, started going out once a week offering food to homeless people when she realised just how many were living rough on our streets.
She said it had dawned on her just how many were sleeping rough while she was on a night out in Rochester in November.
Ms Stocker, 45, was so moved by how many people were on the street that she and her friend Dayle Flemming, 29, started delivering a hot meal to them at least once a week.
She and Mr Flemming either pay for the food themselves, or rely on donations from friends to buy the food and have now set up a fundraising page to help them continue their work.
The pair, if they have any money to spare, also hand out gloves, scarves and clean socks.
Ms Stocker and Mr Flemming were two of 16 concerned people who went along to a meeting organised in Strood recently to discuss what people could do to help rough sleepers after the death of Samson Paine, who died in the centre of Chatham, while living in a tent.
They set up as an action group and were calling for an inquiry into how Mr Paine died in the heart of their community and are calling themselves, Justice For Medway Homeless People.
The informal gathering was organised by Guy Jordan, 45, after he read about Mr Paine’s death in the Medway Messenger under the headline “The saddest end”.
Mr Paine, had been living in his tent in Dock Road in Chatham, close to the bus station. His body was discovered on Wednesday, June 15.
Ms Stocker, a mother of three had also given hot food to Mr Paine and has said continue to feed homeless people, despite claiming the police have threatened to arrest her if she keeps doing so. She said: “I was so shocked by how many people I saw sleeping in doorways in Rochester High Street. There were about 10 people living rough just on that street.
“It motivated me to do something and Dayle and I decided we would go out and feed them. We also gave out socks and scarves and gloves.
Mr Flemming added: “It was so cold that night. It was freezing and I was so cold, but if they were sleeping out there that night I was not going to give up, look what they had to go through.
The pair also fed Mr Paine in Chatham and he had told them he’d had bleach thrown at him while he was living his tent and had been abused by others.
She and Mr Flemming have also been feeding a man called John who is in a wheelchair and sleeps rough in Chatham and Rochester and apparently sleeps at night in a car park in Rochester.
Ms Stocker, said: “John tells me he had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – a lung condition) and he lives in a car park in Rochester.
“Dayle and I couldn’t believe someone in a wheelchair was living rough, but then we have come across others with mental health issues. John told me he has known four homeless people who have died since June.
“On New Year’s Eve when we were feeding people in Rochester High Street I was threatened with arrest by a policeman if I kept feeding the homeless, they told me I was encouraging vagrancy under the 1824 Act.
“I have seen a caring side to some officers though and I know one who really does care about the people living rough.
“I will continue to do it, especially on Sundays, that’s when Dayle and I go out now as we spoke to many people living rough who said they can’t get any help from the charities or agencies on a Sunday as everything is closed.
“They called it Suicide Sunday.”
According to Medway Council, there are 1,037 people registered as homeless and only 20 of these people are sleeping rough in the Towns. Ms Stocker and Mr Flemming believe the rough sleepers numbers in Medway are higher and estimate there are between 35 and 40 people sleeping on our streets.
“We’ve been feeding people for about seven months now and will continue to do it, I don’t care what the police say. “
A police spokesman added: “There is no record of any contact with Ms Stocker, however, the local policing sergeant would be willing to meet with Ms Stocker and discuss any concerns she may have.
“Kent Police is part of the Blue Light Project which provides support and advice to homeless people in Medway.”
If you would like to help Ms Stocker, reach her £200 target to help buy food for rough sleepers, visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/tracie-stocker