Number of homeless deaths at highest level

A record number of homeless people died last year on the streets or in emergency shelters and hostels according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics.

An estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, up from 597 deaths in the previous year. Data on the deaths of homeless people has only been collected and reported on centrally since 2013, when the figure was 482.

Most of the deaths in 2018 were among men, accounting for 641 of the estimated deaths and 88 per cent of the total. The average age at death was 45 years for men and 43 for women, both figures are well below those for the general population, which is 76 years (for men) and 81 years (for women).

Two in five deaths of homeless people were related to drug poisoning in 2018 (294 estimated deaths), and the number of deaths from this cause has increased by 55 per cent since 2017.

London and the north-west had the highest numbers of deaths in 2018, with 148 (20 per cent) and 103 (14 per cent) estimated deaths of homeless people respectively. Cities and large urban areas dominated the list of places recording most deaths, with Birmingham accounting for 23 deaths, Newcastle with 20, Manchester 19, Bristol 17 and Liverpool for 16.

Jon Sparkes, from the charity Crisis, said it was “heart-breaking” that people were dying homeless. “It’s crucial that governments urgently expand the safeguarding system used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults to include everyone who has died while street homeless so we can help prevent more people from dying needlessly.”

Polly Neate, from the housing charity Shelter, said: “You can’t solve homelessness without homes, so we are calling on all parties to commit to building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing system.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the figures were a “sombre reminder” there was “still much more to do to tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping for good”. He added that the Government was spending £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness.

By Patrick Mooney, Editor