At least 450 homeless people in the UK have died on the streets or in temporary housing over the past 12 months, according to an investigation that exposes the “national emergency” of homelessness.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which conducted the research, said the true numbers are likely to much higher because no official figures are kept for homelessness deaths.
Commenting on the investigation, the publication of which coincides with World Homeless Day today (October 10), Unite blamed austerity and the erosion of the social safety net for exploding rates of homelessness.
The BIJ found that at least 449 homeless people died over the past year for various reasons including drug overdoses, violence and illness.
The average age of the deceased was 53 for women and 49 women, nearly 40 per cent lower than the average UK life expectancy of 82.
Chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said, “To learn of the sheer scale of those who have lost their lives in the past year is nothing short of horrifying. This is a wake-up call to see homelessness as a national emergency.”
Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said rocketing homelessness was directly connected to the Tories’ austerity policies.
“The massive surge in rough sleeping did not arrive by accident – it’s increased in lockstep with specific government policies such as changes to the benefits system and changes to Universal Credit,” Groves said.
“The lack of provision at shelters mean that at some hostels – where violence and drugs are prevalent – many who are homeless feel unsafe and would rather risk it on the streets.
“While we welcome the great work that charities do, the gaps in the system cannot be funded by charities alone. State-backed provision – a properly funded social safety net – needs to be in place to stop people falling through the cracks and sleeping rough.”