NEWS
08/10/2018 19:00 BST | Updated 11/10/2018 10:44 BST

At Least 449 Homeless People Died Last Year, Bureau of Investigative Journalism And Channel 4 News Reveal

Office for National Statistics to now produce official estimates on homeless deaths.

PA Archive/PA Images

At least 449 people died while being homeless across the UK in the last year, a shocking investigation has revealed.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in partnership with Channel 4 News, has found a former soldier, a physicist and a travelling musician were among those who lost their lives.

Violence, drug overdoses and suicide were identified as some of the reasons why they died.

Among the tragic findings, one man’s body showed signs of prolonged starvation. In one week alone, 14 people died.

There is no official figure for the number of people who die on the streets, though a series of reports suggest homelessness is rising.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed it will now produce its own estimates on homeless deaths.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “Rising levels of homelessness are a national disgrace, but it is utterly unforgivable that so many homeless people are dying unnoticed and unaccounted for.

“To prevent more people from having to experience the trauma of homelessness, the government must ensure housing benefit is enough to cover the cost of rents, and urgently ramp up its efforts to build many more social homes.”  

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said: “These figures are nothing short of a national scandal.

“These deaths are premature and entirely preventable.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of housing campaign group Crisis, said: “This is a wake-up call to see homelessness as a national emergency.”

Investigators worked with local journalists, charities and grassroots groups to fill the void in the data. 

The figure includes rough sleepers, people living in emergency accommodation including hostels and B&Bs, and ‘sofa-surfers’. The true total is likely to be higher.

The investigation revealed some of those who died were found in shop doorways in summer, and in tents in woodland in winter.

Some were sent, terminally ill, to dingy hostels. Others died when in hospital beds or in temporary accommodation.

Three men’s bodies were badly decomposed by the time they were discovered, underlining how some lay dead for weeks or months before anyone found them.

From those where age was known, the average age of death for men was 49 years old and 53 years for women. Those that died ranged in age from 18 to 94.

Ben Humberstone, ONS deputy director for health analysis and life events, said:  “In order to produce new data, we look at other sources of information from a variety of organisations, government departments and stakeholders. 

“In this case, we have looked at a crowdsourced database set up by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in partnership with Channel 4 News and compared that information with our own figures, collected from death registrations.

“This is to find out whether it would be possible to produce accurate estimates of the deaths of homeless people, their characteristics and what they have died of.”

An Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Every death of someone sleeping rough on our streets is one too many and we take this matter extremely seriously.
“We are investing £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness, and have set out bold plans backed by £100m in funding to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.
“We have committed to make sure that Safeguarding Adult Reviews, in the case of the death or serious harm of a person who sleeps rough, ensure that lessons are learnt for services.”