A homeless man has been left with nothing but the clothes on his back after his van went up in flames in an attack suspected to be deliberate.
Police confirmed they were still investigating the cause of the fire on Friday, and did not rule out arson when contacted by The Independent.
Lynne Forester, who manages the nearby Revival Ice Cream Parlour and Veggie Bar, set up a JustGiving page for the man, named locally as ‘Pete’.
The online fundraiser smashed its initial target of £200 within hours and has so far raised almost £1,300.
Pete is said to regularly use Revival’s ‘pay-it-forward’ scheme, which allows people to donate money for others to buy things from the eatery’s menu.
In a Facebook post the business, which is owned by mental health charity Mind, said the man had “lost everything”.
“Sadly someone has set fire to the van/home of one of our regular lovely pay-it/forward customers parked nearby,” the post said.
“The fire service and police have attended the scene, he is thankfully unharmed but he has lost everything.
“We would dearly like to help him replace some of his most needed items. We have set up a JustGiving page and we will accept donations in the shop.”
“All of his worldly goods were in the van and he has been left without clothes or bedding,” Ms Forester added on the JustGiving page.
“We aim to raise enough to replace these. As part of a charity which feeds anyone in need Pete has been a regular customer of ours.”
She later added that any additional funds would be used to find Pete alternative accommodation since the van was his home.
A police spokeswoman told The Independent: “Kent Police was made aware of a van on fire on Thursday, 3 January, at 7.06pm on Collingwood Road, Whitstable.
“Officers attended the scene with Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
“No injuries were reported and enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing.”