Leaving Britain's homeless criminals to die

Zardoz Greek zardos777 at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Dec 29 09:33:25 GMT 2014

The father who froze to death in a Kent village
Daniel Gauntlett's lonely death highlights the growing crisis of rough sleepers in rural Britain

A homeless person endures freezing weather. Photograph: Steve Black / Rex Features
Tracy McVeigh and Chris Hunter
Sunday 14 April 2013 00.05 BST

On a bitterly cold night earlier this year, 35-year-old Daniel Gauntlett left his borrowed tent and sought respite from the frozen ground on the veranda of a boarded-up bungalow in the Kent village of Aylesford.

Gauntlett had been arrested just before Christmas for breaking into the same derelict house to sleep and had been charged under the new anti-squatting legislation. So the father of two lay down outside on the porch to get what sleep he could under a damp tarpaulin. As temperatures dropped, he died there of hypothermia. On the same Saturday night another homeless man, Douglas Poynton, 45, also died in Aylesford.


The long winter's weather has taken its toll on Britain's rough sleepers, whose numbers have risen dramatically by almost a third in the past two years. Local authorities only open emergency shelters when zero temperatures are forecast for three consecutive nights. Deaths are inevitable among a group of vulnerable people whose life expectancy is 44 to 30 years lower than the national average. Between 30% and 50% suffer mental illness, many have autism or Asperger's. They are three times more likely to die from infection than the general population. They are four times more likely to die from unnatural causes.

In London, services are stretching thinner, but major charities are established in the capital, where the mayor has committed to ending rough sleeping. But smaller towns and regions are now finding themselves with burgeoning demand for beds and soup kitchens just as councils are closing services under the pressure of huge budget cuts.


Daniel Lee Gauntlett wasn't friendless. As a boy he didn't do brilliantly at school but found a job in the scrap metal trade and then worked as a decorator. He married Kerry and had two children. He liked to do the school run when he could. His mother, brother, sister and niece live in East Malling, three miles from where he died. His life was shaken by his parents' divorce and by the death at 18 of his younger brother. Gauntlett's own health suffered and depression dogged him, which in turn caused him employment and financial problems. His marriage broke up and in 2006 Kerry and the children moved away.

Debbie Arnold, 43, who was in a relationship with Gauntlett for several years, said: "He was sensitive, very sensitive. He was a lovely soul, but very easily led." Falling in with the wrong crowd led to a short spell in prison for burglary three years ago. "No one would give him a chance after that, no one would give him a job. He didn't want to get into trouble again. He was very low and found that a lot of things were getting to him."

Gauntlett hit a downward spiral, began drinking, and the couple split up two years ago. "We never knew where he had gone," she said.

In Aylesford, Charlene and Steve Austen noticed a bearded man hanging about the village. One day, seeing him soaked, they bought him sausage and chips. Their kindness made him cry. Weeks later they saw him again. "We were in the village and found him slumped over a wall," said Charlene, 41. "Freezing cold, stuff running down his face. He was a mess."

Too weak to carry his own bags, Gauntlett was helped to come to the couple's home for a hot drink but he wouldn't stay. "He didn't want to impose," Charlene said. "People take dogs in off the street in this country, yet he's left. He was left to die outside a boarded-up bungalow."

Last year the number of people officially classed as homeless in England jumped by 14%. Rough sleeping rose by 31%. Across England, 48,510 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities, including 69,460 children. That doesn't cover people in overcrowded accommodation or "sofa-surfers". A study in Wales found the most common reason for people sleeping rough was that they had exhausted help from friends or family.

Calls to Shelter's housing advice helpline for people who are either homeless or at risk of losing their home have risen by 80% in the past three years, while 1.4 million people in Britain are falling behind with their rent or mortgage payments, according to a YouGov poll.

"People say 'What? Homelessness in leafy Chichester?" said Stuart Gibbons of the charity Stonepillow in West Sussex, "but we are all just three mortgage payments away from the situation of many of our clients." Gibbons said winter brought a sharp rise in demand. "It's not necessarily a rise in numbers, but the man who might usually sleep unnoticed in the Morrisons doorway is more likely to move and look for a bed when it gets that cold … In terms of health, infections and gangrene, asthma and chest infections are really common things. And someone with no address has no right to a GP."

Last week in Newcastle 26-year-old journalist Lee Halpin was found dead in a derelict building. Temperatures had reached -4C that weekend. He had planned to make a film about the city's rough sleepers by becoming one of them. His friends believe he died of hypothermia, but post mortem tests continue.

Another rough-sleeping hotspot is the south-west, where a recent report by Devon's director of public health, Dr Virginia Pearson, concluded: "Rough sleeping is often viewed as a problem which only exists in large cities. This report shows that there is a significant number of people homeless and rough sleeping in Devon, not just in the larger urban areas but also in the more rural and remote parts of the county." When Michael Gething, 42, died of hypothermia in a Totnes alleyway in December, the fourth homeless man to die there in two years, local people carried his coffin through the streets of a town with no shelter beds.

Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy at Crisis, said: "Homelessness is growing pretty consistently, not just in the big cities but in the smaller towns as well … From this month every source of funding, every advice service, every centre will be hit; 2,000 hostel beds have just gone. Rough sleeping is rising in these small towns that aren't even admitting they have an issue. There's still some sympathy for the homeless … but nobody likes those perceived as anti-social, even though the homeless are far more likely to be victims of abuse or violence than perpetrators. A big fear is that we lose all the professionalism we have built up in this field, since the bad old days a decade ago when it was a blanket in a church or cardboard city at Waterloo. We're now skilled at getting people back into society, at keeping people out of the prison and mental health systems."

In Aylesford last month Gauntlett's family reclaimed their son and gave him a "really lovely funeral" said Debbie Arnold. "He didn't ask for help, but he needed it. He was always there when I needed him, always happy to help, he had a heart of gold. Homeless people aren't nasty, sometimes they are just proud, like Dan was."

Homelessness  Social exclusion  Housing  Local government
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comments (45)
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14 Apr 2013 5:38

Sad, just sad.


14 Apr 2013 9:03

We as a country rescue animals and assess their needs... Surely in the name of humanity there should be more supervised shelter for the people such as Daniel. Many people live in the cosy comfort of their castles and many homes.

In these uncertain economic times , everyone is on rocky ground now... but...
there is a generation that has become dependent and weakened by excess.. so we all understand that 
drink and drug dependency is evil and destructive..

madmonty  maggawags

@maggawags - In reading the article this poor mans situation was not a case of drink or drugs, but family breakdown and subsequent depression.

I suffer from depression, have all my life, in 1988 a combination of factors led me to the point of losing my home, one of which was Nigel Lawson's sudden and large increase of interest rates.

Luckily I had the support of loving parents who pulled me through it. However it has never left me how quickly your life can disintegrate through circumstances some of which were completely unexpected and out of my control.

Its is uncertain economic times granted, but we do need to push for better help for those who are homeless and those who do suffer from forms of mental illness, otherwise this will not be the last sad story.

This man was arrested under the new act, why was nothing done after that arrest to try an get him to some form of accommodation?

What kind of society are we living in, when in the 21st Century people in the UK are dying , homeless and alone, something is very wrong

honeynutloop  maggawags

@maggawags - I agree. But of course, whilst people will willingly open their purses to support animal charities, they seem more reluctant to pay out to support vulnerable humans.


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