One homeless person dies every 19 hours in the UK
The Museum of Homelessness says official records of people dying while homeless are "inconsistent".
Campaigners are calling for action after the latest estimates revealed that 235 people have died while homeless in the UK in the past six months. That’s an average of one person every 19 hours.
The figures, compiled by activist group the Museum of Homelessness (MoH), include people sleeping rough or staying in temporary or emergency accommodation such as hostels.
They used coroners’ records, Freedom of Information requests, local authorities’ figures, and media coverage to gather the data.
Co-founder of MoH, Jessica Turtle, says the true figure is likely to be even higher and says her organisation wants local authorities to do a much better job of recording these deaths.
She said in a report from the PA news agency: “We are absolutely sure that there are more deaths than we have so far recorded."
"We will continue to build a picture as we continue with the project," she said. "In some cases the data is not being recorded or there is a delay while inquests are resolved. The way a person’s status is recorded on death certificates is inconsistent.”
The MoH, a social justice organisation that campaigns to raise awareness of the experience of being homeless in the UK, took over the count from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism earlier this year.
The Bureau initially started the Dying Homeless project in 2017 after discovering there were no official records of the situation. Since then the Office of National Statistics has begun its own estimates.
Since the Dying Homeless project began, nearly 1,000 deaths have been recorded.
The project is doing an important job of raising awareness of just how dangerous being homeless can be in the UK.
In May, a member of the public also began putting up cardboard gravestones in places where a person had once slept but had since died in and around Bristol in a bid to honour their lives. The anonymous creator of the cardboard gravestones referenced the Dying Homeless Project in their messages.
These latest figures mark a 6-month point since the last estimate was made. The people who died were aged between 16 and 104.
Turtle said than in the past few months there had been “positive responses” to their work from some councils, such as in Birmingham, Oxford, and Islington, but Turtle argues that more work needs to be done.
Matt Turtle, another co-founder of MoH, said that as an organisation they often hear from people experiencing homelessness that they often feel safer on the streets than in hostels.
“We regularly hear from people who feel they’re safer on the streets than in hostels and this data shows why,” he said. “People are placed in inadequate, unsafe accommodation, whether badly-run hostels or other forms of private rented accommodation, with fatal consequences."
Chris Wood, head of policy at housing charity Shelter, said the deaths were a national scandal. He added that they “cannot be ignored and demand urgent action from the new prime minister”.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government spokesman told PA: “It is simply unacceptable that any life should be cut short due to homelessness. This government is committed to ensuring everyone has a safe place to live."
They added: “Councils are responsible for helping people at risk of being homeless so they can get the safety and support they need.”