A record number of homeless people died last year, in the biggest increase in deaths since reporting began, amid warnings fatalities are likely to be even higher in 2019.
Charities and MPs have said austerity and cuts to services are driving a worsening homelessness crisis, as figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018. This is a 22% rise from 2017 and the biggest increase since the data was first collected in 2013.
The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, asking an urgent question in the Commons about deaths among homeless people, said: “This shames us all … This demands a response from the prime minister himself tomorrow in his party conference speech.”
Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of the charity Crisis, said: “It is heartbreaking that hundreds of people were forced to spend the last days of their lives without the dignity of a secure home.”
His words were echoed by the housing minister Luke Hall: “There is no shying away from these statistics. They are heartbreaking.”
Those collecting data for the Museum of Homelessness said the number of deaths for 2019 is likely to be even higher. “We do think that [from what we have recorded so far] we will really see an increase again, so the picture will get bleaker,” said Jessica Turtle, co-founder of the Museum of Homelessness.
Birmingham had the highest number of deaths recorded by any local authority in the country with 23 homeless people dying, an increase of 18 people from the previous year.
Most of the deaths in 2018 were among men, accounting for 641 estimated deaths and 88% of the total. The mean age at death was 45 years for men and 43 for women, far lower than for the general population, which is 76 years and 81 years for men and women respectively.
Two in five deaths of homeless people were related to drug poisoning in 2018 (294 estimated deaths), and the number of deaths from this has increased by 55% since 2017.
London and the north-west had the highest numbers of deaths in 2018, with 148 (20% of the total number) and 103 (14% of the total number) estimated deaths of homeless people respectively.
The figures included rough sleepers and people using emergency accommodation such as shelters and hostels.
Source: The Guardian