Homelessness in the UK is the highest it’s ever been since records began.

It’s a pretty bleak situation. But a Guardian investigation has revealed that it’s even worse than previously thought.

The number of homeless people who have died has doubled in the past five years — and experts say it’s likely that true figures are even higher.

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The Guardian figures show that at least 230 people have died since 2013 while living on the streets or in temporary accommodation. Last year, at least 70 people reportedly died — an average of more than one a week.

The average age of death for rough sleepers is just 43 years old. For the rest of the UK, the average life expectancy is 82 years old. Whenever gender was provided as part of the data, it was found that men made up 90% of all homeless deaths.

The Guardian investigation approached every local authority in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and provides the most comprehensive statistics of homeless deaths yet. No UK government department keeps a national record, and since local councils are not obliged to track the data either, experts say it’s likely that even these numbers are grossly underestimated.

Indeed, several cities with large homeless populations and confirmed deaths reported in local media didn’t respond to the Guardian’s Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Local media has already reported 23 deaths this year, after the “Beast from the East” brought snow and freezing temperatures to the UK in February and March.

Government data released at the start of the year found that at least 4,751 people sleep homeless in the UK every night. The numbers have gone up every single year for the last seven years, with last year reporting a 15% increase from 2016. Since 2010, the number of rough sleepers has increased by 169%.

“These [Guardian] figures are a devastating reminder that rough sleeping is beyond dangerous – it’s deadly, and it’s claiming more and more lives each year,” said Matthew Downie, director of policy at homelessness charity Crisis. “Those sleeping on our streets are exposed to everything from sub-zero temperatures to violence and abuse, and fatal illnesses.”

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“They are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, twice as likely to die from infections, and nine times more likely to commit suicide,” Downie added. “What’s worse, we know these figures are likely to be an underestimate.”

Meanwhile, the Homelessness Reduction Act became law last week. It requires councils to provide support to anybody at risk of homelessness, including free information on human rights and opening up assistance to all, regardless of whether they’re classed as a “priority.” However, the changes in legislation offer no new money to councils already facing severe funding cuts, according to campaigners — and charities have claimed that the law doesn’t address the true causes of homelessness.

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“Local authorities are currently having to house the equivalent of an average secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month,” Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, told the Guardian. “ While they are doing all they can to help families facing homelessness, it’s essential that the new act’s duties on councils are fully funded.”

Next week, the Commonwealth Summit comes to London, and Global Citizen is calling on world leaders to take action on gender equality, nutrition, education, and preventable diseases. To raise our collective voice, we’re hosting a night of entertainment-fuelled activism with Emeli Sandé, Professor Green, Naughty Boy, Gabrielle Aplin, and loads more artists at O2 Academy Brixton on April 17. Find out more here.


Demand Equity

The Number of British Homeless People Who've Died Has Doubled in the Last 5 Years

By James Hitchings-Hales