Charles Kenyon's Country Diary: Joe died alone, and we could not find him

He was a troublesome beneficiary, but we owed it to our almshouse resident to do our best for him when he was ill

Charles Kenyon
Charles Kenyon

One of our almshouse residents has died. Joe, as I will call him, was 75 and homeless when we heard about him 11 years ago. He declared he had no next of kin. He was found desolate a dozen miles away, outside our normal area, but we had an empty almshouse and the local authority was charging us full council tax on it. During the past decade he filled the property with trash and worse, telling almost anyone who came near to go away (or words to that effect). I believe our almshouse residents have the same rights as any tenant and a charity has a greater responsibility than a landlord, so we worked with the situation, knowing he had nowhere else to go.

When he first became physically ill the local GP surgery made some arrangements for care visitors, but soon afterwards his attitude towards help must have influenced their cessation. We were told he had to ring for an ambulance in future. So began a series of admissions into one of the six hospitals between the Humber and the Wash. We could not find out which one. Indeed, when we described ourselves as landlords the switchboards either refused to talk to us or told us he was not in the hospital, which was untrue.

One of our trustees is the local vicar and he cannot now get access to hospital patients without their expressly recorded invitation, regardless of whether they are in a state to give it. We were excluded and unable to find him. Joe died alone.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen


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