The number of people who died while homeless in England and Wales has risen for a fifth year in a row, reaching the highest level since comparable statistics began in 2013.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that an estimated 778 people died while homeless in England and Wales during 2019.
The figure marks 52 (7.2 per cent) more deaths than in 2018 when there were 726 estimated deaths. The increase represents the highest number of estimated deaths since the time series began in 2013.
The number of suicides among people who are homeless in England and Wales increased by 30.2 per cent in one year, from 86 estimated deaths in 2018 (11.8 per cent of the total number), to 112 estimated deaths in 2019 (14.4 per cent of the total number).
Responding to the figures, Jon Sparkes, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “It is devastating that hundreds of people died without the dignity of a stable home. Every one of these human beings will have had different lives, different characters and different stories. It is heart-breaking that what unites them is the systematic failure of successive governments. It is particularly shocking that the number of people to have taken their own lives while homeless has gone up by almost a third in just one year.”
Mr Sparkes stressed that in order to prevent more avoidable deaths, it is vital that the UK government urgently fulfils its previous commitment and expands the safeguarding system used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults, to include anyone who has died while homeless.
He said: “2020 has proven that with political will, change is possible. Earlier this year, hundreds of lives were saved by providing emergency accommodation to people rough sleeping to protect them from coronavirus.
“But the emergency has not ended for people homeless across the country – even without the threat of coronavirus it is clear that homelessness in and of itself is a serious threat to life. People experiencing homelessness still face huge health inequalities and many barriers to finding a safe and secure home. We urge the UK government to save lives by ensuring people who are homeless have prompt and equitable access to the coronavirus vaccine and by delivering the affordable housing we need to end homelessness for good.”
Picture: A homeless man sleeps in a street. (SerrNovik).