Current Events

Terrible loss of life’ as almost 1,000 UK homeless deaths recorded in 2020

Findings show that the pandemic affected a system ‘already cut to the bone from 10 years of austerity’ and called on the Government to ‘stop repackaging old funding commitments as new support and do more to stop this terrible loss of life’.

Almost 1,000 homeless deaths occurred last year across the UK, a social justice group has said. The Museum of Homelessness (MoH) said the figure rose by more than a third on the previous year, and called for more to be done to stop such ‘terrible loss of life’.

It said it had verified 693 homeless deaths in England and Wales, 176 in Scotland and 107 in Northern Ireland. The total figure was up 37% on the 710 UK deaths reported in the 2019 study, it said.

But it added that the efforts could not make up for pre-pandemic cuts to services, coupled with the disruption caused by the outbreak. It said of the cases for which they had confirmed details of the cause of death, 36% were related to drug and alcohol use and 15% were suicide.

Jess Turtle, co-founder of MoH, said: ‘The Government hypes ‘Everyone In’ as a runaway success. ‘But it didn’t stop a staggering increase in the number of people dying while homeless, despite the best efforts of our colleagues around the country who worked 24 hours a day on emergency response.’

The project uses information from coroners’ enquiries, media coverage, family testimony and freedom of information requests, in their latest research they gathered data through more than 300 requests, to verify details of each case.

The figures included the deaths of people who were living on the streets, sofa surfing, and in emergency or temporary accommodation for people who are homeless.

The MoH said it has formed the Dying Homeless Project coalition, which includes people affected by homelessness, experts, charities, grassroots activists, academics, journalists, artists and campaigners, and is now calling for a national confidential inquiry into homeless deaths ‘to make the critical changes needed to save lives’.

Sleeping rough

The MoH said campaigners plan to light candles on Tuesday in memory of those who died while homeless last year, and are calling on the public to do the same and share their efforts on social media due to restrictions on gathering in person.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘A lot of hard work went into getting thousands of people off the streets at the start of the pandemic. But more become homeless every day because there aren’t enough homes they can actually afford to live in. Source

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