Minster-on-Sea Parish Council met with Mr Malcolm Staines recently to talk about his work for the homeless in the community. Mr Staines is a very charismatic character. After spending a considerable number of years living on the streets himself, he now spends a lot of his time in Sheerness’ High Street where he can be approached by anyone that needs help. He spoke about his own experiences, the kindness of strangers and the problems he had trying to get back into accommodation. He said that there was help for families who could be accommodated in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation until more permanent accommodation could be found but that single people were particularly vulnerable because there was very little help they could access even from food banks as they had no proof of address they could back up their claim with.
Mr Staines alleged that there were at least 22 single people sleeping rough on the island. He spoke about the kindness of the public who continue to donate essential items like warm clothing, underwear, socks, shaving materials etc. He also talked about the bare necessities – cooking equipment, a tin opener and tarpaulin which form a kit he has put together costing about £25 to keep one person fed and warm until a solution can be found. He described one particularly poignant time when he found a person sleeping in the back of a lorry without any food or warmth. The kit Mr Staines provided meant that that person could survive until help was found. He challenged the perception that some people have of the homeless and asked Members to take £5 and see how long they would survive on the streets with it. He described local toilet facilities as needing a serious upgrade and asked why the Rose Street toilets in Sheerness are often closed.
Mr Staines was pleased to find out that Sheerness is doing its best to set up its own town council and hopes that this will enable that community to work together to help anyone homeless. He was pleased to be given a list of contacts that could support his work. This included the Sheppey Community Church where Mr. Staines has established some strong connections. He is soon to meet with Porchlight and Swale Borough Council to share his knowledge of the matter and ask for further support.
After considering all the information, Minster-on-Sea PC voted unanimously to support this worthy cause. To this end, £100 in food bank vouchers will be purchased by the Parish Council to help get the message out there that more needs to be done to help the homeless particularly those alone without any form of support. The Parish Council also agreed to work in partnership with Mr Staines and others to address this growing problem.