Leeds among top ten cities for homeless deaths, heartbreaking statistics reveal

Numbers of homeless people dying in Leeds are among the worst in the country, figures have shown.

Sunday, 6th October 2019, 16:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th October 2019, 16:31 pm

Data published by the Office of National Statistics this week ranked the city as joint-ninth for the highest death toll from 2018.

The statistics also showed a significant rise in the number of deaths of rough sleepers and people in temporary or emergency accommodation since 2014.

Drugs were the main cause of deaths, of which fatalities had doubled.

The number of homeless deaths in Leeds has almost doubled since 2014. Picture: Tony Johnson

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The Chief of one of Leeds' most well-known homeless charities has blamed the increasing availability of cheap drugs for the rise in deaths, while Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said in an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post at the weekend that Brexit talks were distracting from action to tackle poverty.

According to the ONS, nine homeless people died in Leeds in 2018, a figure that has almost doubled since 2014 when there were five deaths.

Nationally, the figures of homeless people dying as a result of drugs overdoses rose by 55% in just two years - with 219 people dying from drugs poisoning in 2018.

Statistics specifically relating to drugs-related deaths of homeless people in Leeds were not available.

Statistics for the number of homeless deaths in England and Wales between 2013 and 2018. Source: ONS

Eric Richardson, Chief Executive of organisation Simon on the Streets which supports rough sleepers in Leeds, said: "The increase in street deaths is unfortunately comparable to the rise in homelessness since 2010 of 165% across the UK.

"Austerity has lead to huge cuts in services throughout the UK from drug and alcohol to mental health and individuals have struggled to access services with less workers on the streets. Fortunately the correct funding is starting to be put back in place through the rough sleepers initiative and is making a difference.

"Cheaper and lower quality drugs are now more widely available which means an increase of usage and unfortunately more deaths through overdose. We work closely with Forward Leeds and Bevan health care to address this with outreach to individuals on the streets."

Stock image of a homeless man. Drugs have been revealed to be the leading cause of death in homeless people, the figures for which have more than doubled in just two years. Picture: PA

In July last year, the body of 52-year-old rough sleeper Jason Wager was found near the Dark Arches on Neville Street.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the issue of homelessness in an interview with the YEP on Sunday.

He said: "The numbers of people who are homeless and rough sleeping are going up very, very rapidly. We're a nation of food banks and homeless people at one end, and empty luxury flats at the other.

"There's something morally wrong about knowing that as many as 15,000 people are sleeping rough across the country - this is not a poor country, it's one that can house people.

The body of rough sleeper Jason Wager was found near the Dark Arches in Leeds city centre in July last year

"When you go into any park in any city, look around and you'll find a tent with a homeless person inside."

READ MORE: Wrestler who battled debt and homelessness to fight at Leeds churchFurther afield, the number of homeless deaths in the Yorkshire & the Humber region increased by 43% over two years. It meant the region had the fifth highest proportion of homeless deaths, with a rate of 17.3 per million people.

Sheffield, Hull, Wakefield and Bradford were other cities with high numbers of homeless deaths.

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons, Housing Minister Luke Hall said the statistics were “heartbreaking”.

“There is no shying away from these statistics. They are heartbreaking.”

Mr Hall told MPs the Government was not complacent on homelessness, adding: “We are increasing funding next year by £54m, a 13 per cent real-terms increase. I think it is important to note in the rough sleeping initiative area we have piloted we saw a direct fall of 19 per cent of rough-sleeping in the first year.”

He said 750 more staff and 2,600 bed spaces would also be delivered next year.