Medway Justice for Homeless People protest photo Ivor Riddell

Medway Justice for Homeless People protest photo Ivor Riddell   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Chas Berry, North Kent Socialist Party

Medway Tory council in Kent loves to celebrate Charles Dickens. Twice a year the picturesque streets of Rochester are filled with characters in period dress reenacting scenes from his most famous novels.

At the same time, 21st century poverty and homelessness go unnoticed with an estimated 200 people sleeping rough and many more ‘sofa surfing’ between insecure and sometimes dangerous arrangements.

Reality dawned at this years ‘Dickensian Christmas’ on 3 December, however, when Mayor Stuart Tranter was confronted by around 40 protesters from Medway Justice for Homeless People. The group, which was set up following the death of Samson Paine earlier this year, lined the streets of the main parade with a lively demonstration.

The protest made a huge impact, sited directly outside the historic ‘Six Poor Travellers House’ featured in one of Dickens’s novels and campaigners were overwhelmed with people wanting to sign our petition.

A public meeting, held fittingly at the Huguenot Museum which records the refuge given to those fleeing religious persecution, called for immediate action to address the housing crisis. We are calling on Medway council to provide emergency shelter and an end to the eviction of those forced to sleep in tents on public land.