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Family's grief for a homeless man found dead in Bromley 'let down by the system'

Joe Francis

Joe Francis

Archant

The distraught family of a homeless man found dead on the same day the Times reported on his plight have blamed "the system" for his death.

Julie Starmer and Elizabeth Francis

Last week, we revealed how Joe Francis, who had a six-year-old son Lucas, suffered from paranoia and panic attacks and was using the 5,000 shelter project in Widmore Road because he had nowhere to stay.

He spoke of his desperation to get help for his mental health problems and how he needed to avoid alcohol, which is so prevalent on the streets or in hostels and which he was sometimes tempted to use as a means of escape.

His body was discovered on his 25th birthday last Wednesday at an address in London Road, Bromley, where it is thought he was staying with a friend. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Mr Francis came from a peaceful village in Kisumu in Kenya, where he lived in a mud hut.

His sister, Elizabeth Francis, 38, who helped bring him here after she married an English man, said: “He wanted help so he could see his son. He was in and out of mental hospitals and prison. But he was out of control and nobody helped him. This time he really was trying to change, to get away from the drink and drugs. He wrote us a letter about his regrets but now we’ve lost him. My parents are finding it very hard.”

His parents had not seen him for 11 years before he died after sending him to England when he was 15 with the hope that he would have a better life.

Despite pleas from his family, he was overwhelmed by British culture and fell into alcohol and drugs.

Now the family desperately want to repatriate his body – his tribal culture dictates that he should be buried at home but it will cost £3,000 and they don’t have the money. They are appealing for anyone who can donate to help.

Mother-of-seven Julie Starmer, from Croydon Road, Keston, took Mr Francis under her wing during his late teens after he became friends with her son Matt.

She said: “We are absolutely devastated. Joe was a loveable rogue. He was very close to my son. He is distraught.”

Case worker from the 5,000 project, Sandy Greenfield, said: “Joe was a truly kind-hearted young man who would have given his last penny to help somebody.

“He was in our first shelter two years ago, and one night he won some money on a fruit machine so he went to the Chinese takeaway and bought everyone dinner. I will never forget that.

“He was a product of the system. He fell through the net. Now we’ve had to say goodbye to him. It’s very sad.”

If you can help with any donations, please contact the Times newsdesk on 0208 269 7013.

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