At Least 16 Homeless People Have Died After Contracting Covid-19 In England

"Nobody should be at risk of catching Covid-19 on the street," charities say as new figures reveal tragic toll.
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At least 16 homeless people have died in England after contracting Covid-19, new figures have revealed.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), six of the people who died were in London, while three deaths were recorded in the north-west of England.

No deaths of homeless people in Wales were identified, statisticians said.

Most of the homeless people who died in England were men, the ONS said.

The mean age of homeless men who died after getting coronavirus was 58 – much lower than the average age at death involving Covid-19 for men in the general population, at 79.

The study did not clarify how many homeless women died after contracting Covid-19.

The figures reported by the ONS were based on deaths registered up to June 26.

Experts searched Covid-19 death registration data for indications that a person was homeless when they died, including a reported residence or place of death such as a known homeless shelter or “no fixed abode”.

They included hotels known to be accommodating homeless people as part of the government’s drive to get thousands of rough sleepers into safe accommodation during the pandemic.

But private rentals and student accommodation were not included.

In addition, not all local authorities in England were able to provide details of temporary accommodation within the requested timescale, so not every address used to house homeless people will have been identified.

Due to these factors, it is “unlikely that every death will be identified”, the ONS said.

According to statisticians, the numbers of coronavirus deaths identified was similar to the average number of homeless people whose deaths involved alcohol or suicide per quarter from 2014-2018.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said the death of every homeless person from coronavirus was a tragedy.

“We know that street homeless people, even at a young age, are more likely to have underlying health conditions,” she said. “This, along with things like a lack of good nourishment and sleep, can weaken their immune systems.”

Homeless people are among the UK’s most vulnerable citizens, Neate said.

“Nobody should be at risk of catching Covid-19 on the street, where it’s hard to follow even basic public health guidance such as regularly washing hands.

“Whilst this dangerous virus is still in circulation, the government must make it clear to all councils that they must accommodate anybody facing the streets as the pandemic continues. And as we start to consider what a post-Covid society will look like one thing is for sure: we must end homelessness for good.”

Meanwhile Jon Sparkes, who is chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said that efforts to move rough sleepers and those in night shelters into safe accommodation “undoubtedly saved lives”.

At the start of the pandemic, the government announced £3.2m in emergency funding to help councils house people sleeping on the streets. In June, ministers pledged another £105m for more interim housing.

Sparkes said that the UK must build on its initial efforts.

“We need emergency homelessness legislation to guarantee everyone experiencing homelessness has the security of a safe and settled home.

“Without this, people risk being forced back on our streets or into crowded shelters, with the danger posed by the virus still very real.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have taken unprecedented action to support some of the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic, but there is still much more to do.

“Almost 15,000 people at risk of sleeping rough have been offered accommodation to enable them to self-isolate, and thanks to councils, the NHS, and charities, receive the support they need," they said.

“We are now working at speed to deliver thousands of long-term homes, backed by over half a billion pounds, to ensure as few people as possible return to life on the streets. This landmark commitment will help break the cycle of homelessness and end rough sleeping for good.”


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