Sharp rise in death of homeless people, ONS data shows

21 Dec 18

The total number of deaths of homeless people in England and Wales has shot up by almost a quarter over the last five years, official data has shown.

Close to 600 homeless people died in 2017 - an increase of 24% since 2013, the Office for National Statistics has found.

Men made up 84% of the total deaths in 2017, and the average age of those who died was 44 years for men and 42 for women.

By comparison, the age at death for the general population was 76 years for men and 81 years for women, according to the ONS data released yesterday.  

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “It is shocking and shameful that so many people are dying on the streets of our relatively prosperous countries – and that the number has jumped by almost a quarter in five years.

“These statistics are a stark reminder of the suffering at the very sharpest end of our national housing crisis. And we must remember that they are only an estimate, so the true figure could be even higher.”

The ONS said that over half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide; drug poisoning alone made up 32% of the total.

London and the North West of England had the highest mortality of homeless people, both in numbers of deaths and per million population of the region.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, said: “Every death of a homeless person is preventable. We must make this everybody's business to work together to stop this tragic loss of life and stop homelessness from happening in the first place.

“Proper resourcing of local government funding is essential if we are going to end rising homelessness.”

Greg Beales, campaign director at homeless charity Shelter, said: “This appalling loss of life should be a source of national shame.

“Our crippling shortage of social housing and a threadbare safety net are at the root of this national emergency and we call on government to make this year a turning point in the fight to ensure that there is a safe home for all those who need it.” 

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.

Earlier this month the government published it’s Rough Sleeping Delivery plan which handed councils in England £11m to tackle homelessness.

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