William Eichler 26 February 2019

Poor, urban areas see majority of homeless deaths

Welfare cuts and a lack of social housing are driving the homelessness crisis which has resulted in hundreds of deaths, particularly in poor, urban areas.

The Office for National Statistics has published data on the deaths of homeless people — namely, those who are sleeping rough or staying in emergency accommodation — broken down by local authority area.

The highest estimated numbers of deaths were in major urban areas such as Manchester (21) and Birmingham (18). Many more deaths of homeless people occurred in urban areas (574 in 2017) compared with rural areas (only 26).

The highest estimated rates of deaths of homeless people, relative to the total population of each area, included some smaller towns such as Blackburn with Darwen (11).

Local areas in England with the highest deprivation had around nine times more deaths of homeless people relative to their population than the least disadvantaged areas.

Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said the ONS figures should be a ‘wakeup call’.

‘There is nothing inevitable about people dying homeless, it is a direct consequence of a broken housing system,’ she said.

‘When more and more people have no choice but to sleep on the street, we see the absolute sharpest end of the housing emergency.

‘Unstable and expensive private renting, welfare cuts and a severe lack of social housing are fundamentally at the root of this crisis.’

‘But we do have the power to fix this,’ she added. 

‘To prevent more people being pushed into homelessness, the Government must ensure housing benefit can cover rents, and urgently ramp up building social homes.’

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