The reason for Thanet carpenter’s act of kindness to homeless man in Broadstairs

An act of kindness from Geoff Hawkins

A Thanet carpenter who sparked a wave of facebook praise after giving his coat to a homeless man in Broadstairs says he just wanted to make a small difference to someone.

Geoff Hawkins, who lives in Ramsgate, had finished work and was driving through Broadstairs when he pulled over to pop into the shop.

The 60-year-old said: “The guy came up to the window and asked very quietly if I could spare some change. I only had notes so I gave him a satsuma off the dashboard and then went in the shop. It was preying on my mind because I could see the guy was broken, he was skinny as a bird and although he was about 45 he had on teenager’s clothes. The jeans were too big, his footwear was bad and he was in a bit of a state.

“So, I put my shopping in the van and then took my coat off and put it up so he could get in the armholes, put the hood up and sort of gathered him up. I gave him a tenner and he was really grateful.

“The next thing I know it was on facebook with people saying nice things.”

The post, by Vicky Chadwick, praised Geoff for the care he showed and resulted in almost 200 comments.

Geoff says he would always help someone down on their luck because he has been there.

He said: “I was homeless and it was hard and so I know what to look for. He wasn’t like some of the younger ones with nice coats and trainers and smelling like they just got out of the shower.

“I just hope I made a bit of difference. I did go home and fill up two hot water bottles for him, because this weather goes straight through you, but he wasn’t there when I went back.”

Geoff came to Thanet as a youngster and grew up in a Broadstairs care home.

He said: “It was a fantastic home. There were only ten kids there and our foster dad was a Gurkha captain. He would take us to sing carols at Ted Heath’s. We’d also go to what was a grand ballroom on the seafront, it’s fancy flats now, and help arrange the chairs for concerts.

“But when you finish in a children’s home, that’s it. Where do you go? I had gone back to Wimbledon but Broadstairs was a place where I had gone swimming and had fun so I thought my chances were better there than somewhere I didn’t know.

“Me and my friend used to look out for each other. You’d be hanging around parks and there would be older people who would say you could stay on the sofa although sometimes you’d end up back on the street at 4am.

“When you are homeless you are nothing, you feel like nothing, you lose all your confidence. But you can also be surprised at people’s kindness and it would bring a tear to my eye when people wanted to help, even just doing  little things like bringing you a sandwich or socks.

“Sometimes we ended up with carrier bags of stuff so could share it with other people who needed it.”

For Geoff, it was having to go to the dole office to pick up his money that led to help from staff and social workers.

He got himself on a chef course at Thanet College – Gary Rhodes was one of his fellow students – and was taken in by the Pantoni family until he eventually got himself a flat.

Geoff, who likes art, cooking and making things, currently shares a house with a friend and says it is the little things that he still appreciates.

He said: “I come home and there is central heating, when you are homeless that kind of thing is so far away from you. If I get wet I can come home and put on dry clothes but when you are homeless in that kind of weather you might have to make the choice between staying dry or going to your begging place but getting wet.

“I would stay in shelter or sit at the train station all day pretending to wait for a train.

“The guy I saw struck me as someone broken and that’s why I wanted to help.”

Get help

Contact Rise on 01843 577277. Emergency or out of hours: 01843 577000.

Email [email protected].


  1. I grew up in Broadstairs and went to the same school as Geoff, knew him but not as close mate’s, he always seemed an ok kind of guy, for the life of me I had absolutely no idea of his upbringing nor the struggles he went through with homelessness, I obviously walked around with my eyes shut,how bad do I feel now! pleased it’s eventually worked out for him.

  2. Good for you, Geoff. We could all do with showing a bit of kindness from time to time. We will feel much better as a result! Geoff is right when he compares having a roof over your head to homelessness, and it’s not just about central heating and a change of clothes. Everything we do every day – those of us who are lucky enough to have a home – is a privilege that we take for granted, from the food that we put on the table to the dignity that we expect and enjoy. I think it’s very easy for us to forget this as we go about our everyday business. We need reminding sometimes, and this is what Geoff has done 😊 Again, well done!

  3. Why are we seeing homeless people on the streets when TDC say they are homing them in Ramsgate 24/7 with food and bathrooms on suite this winter? This is the second story of homeless people in Thanet in the last couple of weeks. It should just not be happening now. Why are they not being put up in the freezing wet weather?

    • Not everyone WANTS to be placed where TDC can place them (having spoken to a number of homeless). Some ppl have issues that mean they cannot be placed where there are places. Lots of reasons. If you see a homeless person, ask them if RISE are involved, or if they would like referring to them for potential placement Tel 577277 (office hours) or 577000 (OOO)

      • I don’t remember seeing any homeless people on the street in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s 70’s 80’s! Over 14 million people suffered from bomb damaged housing, and 4 million houses were destroyed or unfit for habitation due to war damage. This homelessness seems to be a recent phenomenon, probably around the end of the 90’s when people found it easier to ponce off of well meaning people who were working for a living! I know of 4 who use a flat in Ramsgate, and made a good living this way. Anyone genuinely in need of housing, and mental health help, can get it, otherwise they seem to be suffering from self inflicted injuries!

        • Oh my god do you really think it’s that easy? You’ve obviously never been in a situation like that.
          You just carry on sitting in your ivory tower slating the homeless.

          • Lew I know what poverty is like! My dad was away fighting in France, and a Doodle Bug blew up half our street, my mum and I were evacuated along with three young mums, and assorted kids to a three bed terraced house in Stoke on Trent, which had had an extra gas cooker installed on the landing, mostly to boil soiled nappies! My older sister Beryl had been killed in the Blitz, and my mum told me later it took 12 hours for us to be dug out of a Table shelter!

            Rationing was worse after the war, and when my dad came home he put me to work collecting bits of coal along railway embankments, that had fallen from steam trains, because coal was rationed, and was the only means of heating and some cooking, and I was not yet ten! He and I as the oldest of 3 kids, worked at weekend on the allotment, and we kept chickens and rabbits, the chickens were for eggs, and the rabbits for food, which we scavenged Dandy Lions, and Dock leaves for! When my mum would decide a chicken had stopped laying, it was killed, and we kids would have to pluck it while it was still warm. If a chicken was egg bound, any eggs my mother found in it when she was “drawing” it were used to make a cake!

            When I was old enough I found a coveted paper round, which meant getting up at about 6am, in all weathers, and giving my mum half of the 6/6p a week I received from the newsagent! My dad worked in an Express dairy milk bottling plant, 60 hours a week, and if a machine broke down they didn’t get paid, until it was fixed!

            When we were rehoused in a gleaming new Council House, the estate had no roads, and it was a sea of mud, walking to and from school was a nightmare, and my old dad had to bike to work through it! There was a coal fire in the lounge, but we had little coal, so it was only lit at weekends, and as it was a back oven, my dad baked bread in it, because bread was rationed!

            I went into the last of the National Service army in 1960, and did service in the British Southern Cameroons, in a rain forest, under canvas. All our food was cooked on a petrol oven, which consisted mainly of Corned Beef, Tinned Chicken, and tinned vegetables, although I did once eat a small monkey!

            Seeing the riots in America caused a flash back, when faced with similar situations, with only about two thirds of my platoon, 20 men! We usually sorted it out with fixed bayonets, and seldom had to fire a shot as the crowd soon dispersed. I could go on but am getting tired now, as I expect are many readers. So you see Lew, I grew up in tough times, and we made the most of it, but just to say I went to the new Technical Colleges after I left the Army, 3 nights a week, and one day, and qualified as a civil engineer! so no, don’t have any time for people who won’t make an effort, and get themselves sorted! There is far more help available now, than there was when I was young!

  4. how lovely what a kind man i usually buy food if i see someone homeless i bet that made the homeless mans day just to feel someone cared

  5. Truly amazing man geoff for ur kindness to the homeless man,I to know what it is like to be left homeless but I was left homeless with 5 kids 2 of witch were only 6 wks old at the time, tdc would rehouse me and my children for over 2 wks but after that we were moved all the way to Gillingham from ramsgate, were I was at the time, kids was taken out of school for almost a year coz of it, but I agree it is a warming feeling when you are surprised with the acts of kind ness from some people total credit to you Geoff

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