976 people died while homeless in the UK last year - 37% more than the year before

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 3:39 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 3:40 pm
976 people died while homeless in the UK last year - 37% more than the year before (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The number of deaths among homeless people went up by 37 per cent last year in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to new data.

The Museum of Homelessness found that 976 people died while homeless last year, meaning a person sleeping rough died every nine and a half hours in 2020.

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The alarming rise in deaths comes despite the UK Government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, which was put in place during the pandemic to try and avoid the deaths of homeless people from Covid-19 by providing emergency hotel accommodation.

‘Staggering increase’

While only three per cent of deaths were related to Covid, the combined systemic impact of cuts to welfare, mental health, addiction and housing services over the last decade are all thought to be drivers behind the rising rate of deaths.

Jess Turtle, co-founder of the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) said: “A hotel or hostel room is no substitute for a safe home. The government touts 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.

“These heart-breaking findings demonstrate how the pandemic hit a system already cut to the bone from 10 years of austerity and the scale of the challenge we face to recover. The government needs to stop repackaging old funding commitments as new support and do more to stop this terrible loss of life.”

MoH compiled the data after submitting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, searching through local press reports and speaking with homeless charities all over the country.

‘National enquiry’

As a result of these findings, campaigners are calling for a national enquiry into homeless deaths, to look into the causes of these deaths and ultimately put in place measures to prevent them.

Matt Turtle, co-founder of MoH, said: “The evidence has been building for years. Two years ago, the Government agreed to begin recording statistics for the first time but little is being done with the findings.

“We are asking, how are lessons being learned? We believe that far more needs to be done at a local and national level to change things. A National Confidential Enquiry would help ensure the Government makes the long-term commitment needed.”