AS MANY AS 700 people died on the streets while homeless last year, official estimates show, and the number is in reality likely to be much higher.
An estimated 688 people died while homeless in England and Wales in 2020, new official figures have shown.
Despite the total being an 11.6% fall on the previous year and the first decrease since 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) warned the figure was not ‘statistically significant’ as it was likely to be an underestimate due to the pandemic.
The ONS said the Everyone In scheme, designed to accommodate rough sleepers during the height of the pandemic, had made it more difficult to officially identify people who were homeless through its mortality records.
Around 37,000 people have been provided with emergency accommodation since March 2020, the ONS said.
The 668 figure still represents a 43% increase on the number of deaths registered in 2013, when records began.
Around four out of 10 deaths were related to drug poisoning, which is consistent with previous years, the figures showed. Suicides fell by around a third to 74, compared with a high of 112 in 2019.
An estimated 13 deaths, or 2% of the total, involved coronavirus, with the majority happening during the first wave, the ONS said.
The mean average age of homeless men dying was 45.9 years, while for women it was 41.6 years.
London saw the highest number of estimated homeless deaths with 143, followed by Liverpool with 46, and Greater Manchester with 35.
Men represented the vast majority of estimated deaths, accounting for 88% of mortalities – similar to previous years.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘To think at least 688 people’s final days were spent homeless in the pandemic is a sobering thought. If it wasn’t for the government’s Covid response to help people off the streets even more lives would have been lost.’
She called for the government to act again this winter. ‘The government must step in again to keep people safe from Covid and the ravages of homelessness this winter. Councils need clear guidance to ensure everyone at risk of sleeping rough is offered emergency accommodation and the funding to provide it.’