Drug Poisoning Fuels Biggest Rise in Homeless Deaths Since Records Began

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 1 Oct 2019

The highest rise in homeless deaths year-on-year has been recorded since records began, a spike thought to be caused by drug poisoning. 

The number of homeless people who died in 2018 rose by 22 per cent to 726, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

Of those deaths, two in five were related to drug poisoning – more than double the figure from the previous year.

Homeless men were more likely to die on the streets than women. Of the recorded deaths of homeless people, 641, or 88 per cent, were men. Their average age was 45. 

Why Are Homeless People Dying? 

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Charities have called on the government to launch an investigation into why the number of homeless deaths is increasing following the release of the ONS statistics. 

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of charity Crisis, said it was “crucial” for the government to investigate the deaths so that “we can help prevent more people from dying needlessly.”

“This is now the second year running where we have known the true scale of the human cost of homelessness, yet still the lessons from these tragic deaths go unlearnt,” he said.

“Behind these statistics are human beings, who like all of us had talents and ambitions.

“It is heart-breaking that hundreds of people were forced to spend the last days of their lives without the dignity of a secure home. They shouldn’t be dying unnoticed and unaccounted for. Because in this day and age, there is no excuse for anyone dying without a safe place to call home.”

The Housing Crisis

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Housing charity Shelter added that one of the biggest, and most obvious contributing factors to homelessness was the housing crisis.

Polly Neate, a spokeswoman for the charity, said: “You can’t solve homelessness without homes.”

Shelter is now calling on political parties across Westminster to commit to “building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing system.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said that they are investing £1.2 billion to “tackle all forms of homelessness”, but the figures were a “sombre reminder” there is “still much more to do to tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping for good”.

“Drugs can devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, which is why we are undertaking a comprehensive review which will help protect the most vulnerable – including homeless individuals – from the harms that drugs cause and give them a chance to recover and turn their lives around,” a spokesperson said.

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