Homeless deaths in England and Wales jump to highest number since records began

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The number of people dying homeless in England and Wales has reached a record high.

There were an estimated 778 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales registered in 2019, new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures shows.

This is an increase of 7.2% from the 726 estimated deaths in 2018, and the highest figure since the data series began in 2013.

Of those who died homeless, 37.1% of the estimated deaths were related to drug poisoning.

Suicides among homeless people increased by 30.2% from 86 estimated deaths in 2018 to 112 in 2019.

Most of the deaths in 2019 were among men, with 687 estimated deaths (88.3%).

Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said the figures showed how dangerous homelessness and rough sleeping can be even before the coronavirus outbreak.

She added: “No one should die on the streets or in a temporary bed in a hostel.

“It is awful to think so many people spent their final moments without a safe home in 2019.

“These figures show how incredibly dangerous homelessness, and especially rough sleeping can be, even before we had a deadly pandemic to deal with.

“Coronavirus has made the streets even more dangerous.

“At the start of lockdown in March thousands of people were offered accommodation, but with the economic fallout of the crisis resulting in thousands of job losses, many people will be facing the trauma of homelessness this winter.

“These are not just statistics, they are real people who have tragically lost their lives during a nationwide housing emergency.

“Today, it is important we remember them and we use this terrible loss as a catalyst for positive change.”

Among homeless people the mean age at death was 45.9 years for males and 43.4 years for females in 2019.

That compared to 76.1 years for men and 80.9 years for women in the general population of England and Wales.

London and the North West had the highest numbers of deaths in 2019, with 144 (18.5% of the total number) and 126 (16.2% of the total number) estimated deaths of homeless people respectively.

The South West has the highest mortality rate, with 27 people out of every one million dying homeless last year.

The ONS warned that the true figures my be higher, due to the difficulty of keeping track of people without homes.

The number of people dying homeless has risen from just shy of 500 in 2013 to almost 800 last year.

The data is primarily made up of people sleeping rough or using emergency accommodation such as homeless shelters and direct access hostels, at or around the time of death.

Figures from Shelter released just before Christmas last year showed 280,000 people were recorded as homeless in England.

That was an increase of 23,000 since 2016 when the charity first published its annual report.

Those figures are made up of both people rough sleeping and those in temporary accommodation.