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Homelessness under the spotlight at Medway Council meeting following death of Samson Paine in Chatham

Medway Council is set to come under scrutiny over its treatment of homeless people in the Towns.

The death of homeless man Samson Paine last month prompted residents to form the Justice For Medway Homeless People group and ask Kent and Medway Safeguarding Board why he was allowed to die alone in the centre of Chatham.

There have been unconfirmed reports that as many as four homeless people have died on Medway’s streets recently and now the council’s head of housing and community services is to be quizzed on the subject.

Stock image
Stock image

At the full council meeting on Thursday, Cllr Howard Doe will be asked by campaigner Chas Berry of Strood: “Following the recent death of a homeless man in the centre of Chatham, how are the council addressing the needs of the increasing numbers of street homeless people in the Medway Towns?”

Chairman of Medway Liberal Democrats Tony Jeacock will also quiz Cllr Doe on the issue, stating there is a “disgracefully large number of empty housing throughout the Medway Towns” and an “underestimation of the number of homeless people who are sleeping dangerously rough in dwellings that ought to have been acquired by the council.”

He will then call on Cllr Doe to spell out what practical help is being provided and what plans the council has to help the homeless when winter hits.

Cllr Howard Doe, cabinet member, housing and community services
Cllr Howard Doe, cabinet member, housing and community services

Speaking to the Messenger before the meeting Cllr Doe said the council ran an advice service, but that it wasn’t possible to “compel people to accept a roof over their head.”

“Some have mental issues or get to the stage where they don’t want to be housed,” he said. “Unless you’re running a dictatorship you can’t say to these people ‘get in there’.”

He said he believed Mr Paine had been offered accommodation by a charity prior to his death, but did not want to comment further before an official investigation was conducted.

“We have a number of ways we look after people,” he said. “We put them in hostel accommodation and we help them to apply for housing. We don’t just leave them on their own and say ‘here’s a bit of paper, fill it in.’

“We have a good service.”

But he added: “They’re sometimes a difficult community to deal with. We can only do so much. I care an awful lot for people in that situation.”

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