‘Shameful’ figures show two homeless people died every day last year

Homeless person sleeping on the streets
Fréa Lockley

New figures show that 726 homeless people died in 2018. This is the largest ever recorded rise since records began in 2013. It also means that on average two homeless people died every day last year.

“Shameful”

On 1 October, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in 2018:

  • An estimated 726 homeless people in England and Wales died.
  • This reflects “the highest year-to-year increase” (22%) since ONS started recording these deaths in 2013.
  • The average age of death was 45 for men and 43 for women. This is in contrast to the general population where average life expectancy is “76 years for men and 81 years for women”.
  • An estimated 641 men died (88%).
  • Two in five (an estimated 294) of these deaths “were related to drug poisoning”. This is a 55% increase since 2017. This stands against a 16% rise for the rest of the population.
  • The highest number of deaths were in London (148 people, or 20%) and the North West (103 people, or 14%).

In response, Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said:

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These figures are shameful in a country as rich as ours.

He continued:

High and rising homelessness is not inevitable. The number of people sleeping on our streets fell under Labour but has risen since 2010 as a direct result of the Conservatives slashing investment for low-cost homes, cutting back housing benefit, reducing funding for homelessness services, and denying protection to private renters.

“Tragic”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, called it “heart-breaking” that:

hundreds of people were forced to spend the last days of their lives without the dignity of a secure home.

As the Big Issue reported, Shelter’s Polly Neate also said:

This is a moment to pause and reflect on what matters to us as a society. These tragic deaths are the consequence of a housing system that is failing too many of our fellow citizens.

Other homeless charities echoed that this is a “national tragedy”:

In June, Labour directly linked rising homelessness figures to areas of the UK that have seen the highest funding cuts under this Conservative government.

“Behind these statistics are human beings”

Sparkes stressed:

Behind these statistics are human beings, who like all of us had talents and ambitions. They shouldn’t be dying unnoticed and unaccounted for.

Labour’s Clive Lewis also pointed out that these figures reflect the deaths of real people:

Labour has “committed to” end “rough sleeping within its first five years in government”. It will make 8,000 affordable homes “available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets”. In 2018, Healey also promised an additional £100m fund to provide emergency winter accommodation for people sleeping rough.

Sparkes continued:

It’s crucial that Governments urgently expand the safeguarding system used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults to include everyone who has died while street homeless, so we can help prevent more people from dying needlessly. Because in this day and age there is no excuse for anyone dying without a safe place to call home.

Featured image by Fréa Lockley

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