An investigation has found at least 440 homeless people have died on the streets or in temporary accommodation in the UK in the past year – more than one per day.
The figures were produced by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) in conjunction with Channel 4 News and represent the first attempt to catalogue the number of homeless people to die in a year. Ages of the deceased ranged between 18 and 94, and 69 per cent of them were men. However, the figures are likely to be an underestimate as no organisation currently records the number of homeless deaths in Britain. An earlier investigation by the Guardian newspaper found that at least 230 deaths of homeless people were recorded by councils between 2013 and 2017. A Government spokesperson said: “We take this matter extremely seriously and are investing £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness and have set out bold plans, backed by £100m, to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.” Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homeless charity St Mungo’s, said the “entirely preventable” deaths were a “national scandal”. Charities have called the deaths a national disgrace and blamed soaring homelessness on austerity, expensive private rents and a lack of social housing. They called on councils to investigate every death.
Deaths were caused by violence, drug overdoses, illnesses, suicide and murder, among other reasons. The average age at death was 49 for men and 53 for women, but those who died ranged from 18 to 94. Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said: “To learn of the sheer scale of those who have lost their lives in the past year is nothing short of horrifying. This is a wake-up call to see homelessness as a national emergency.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of the charity Shelter, said: “This important investigation lays bare the true brutality of our housing crisis. Rising levels of homelessness are a national disgrace, but it is utterly unforgivable that so many homeless people are dying unnoticed and unaccounted for. “To prevent more people from having to experience the trauma of homelessness, the government must ensure housing benefit is enough to cover the cost of rents, and urgently ramp up its efforts to build many more social homes.” The BIJ investigation has prompted the Office for National Statistics to request access to the database to help produce their own estimates on homeless deaths, which they hope to publish later this year.
By Patrick Mooney, editor