Our investigation for January to June 2019 has revealed that a person affected by homelessness is dying every 19 hours.
We have found that at least 235 people affected by homelessness have died over the last six months – an average of one every 19 hours – despite the passage of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2017. The people who have died range from 16 to 104 years old.
We have been documenting people’s death’s since April 2019 and we hold and honour people’s stories as part of our commitment to the Dying Homeless Project. We were honoured to take this work on from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism who found in 2017 that deaths were not being recorded and launched the Dying Homeless Project in response.
Of the data that we hold that documents people’s situation when they died, more than 30% of fatalities since 2017 have occurred where people were in emergency or temporary accommodation. These figures – and their accompanying stories – provide a stark illustration of how the services provided to the UK’s most vulnerable people regularly fail to meet an acceptable standard.
Together the Museum of Homelessness and Bureau of Investigative Journalism have recorded the deaths of almost 1000 homeless people since October 2017. The Dying Homeless Project uses information from coroners’ enquiries, media coverage, family testimony and freedom of information requests to verify details of each case. The number of people that died over the last six months is likely to be significantly higher than suggested by the figures reported today given the slow pace at which necessary data is revealed by local authorities and front-line service providers.
MoH co-founder Matt Turtle, “People affected by homelessness continue to die at a shocking rate despite the passage of the homelessness reduction act nearly 18 months ago. We regularly hear from people who feel they’re safer on the streets than in hostels and this data shows why. People are placed in inadequate, unsafe accommodation, whether badly run hostels or other forms of private rented accommodation, with all too often fatal consequences.”
Stories not statistics
Our research shows how the most marginalised in our society continue to be placed at serious risk by the pressure on the housing market. For example, our investigation uncovered the story of a woman in Northern Ireland who died aged 104 after been on the waiting list for council housing since 1999.
People who are street homeless also face horrific levels of violence. In July, Ionut Manea was brutally murdered whilst staying at a homeless encampment in Ilford. The 38 year old from Romania, who had been working as a casual labourer in the area, suffered 100% burns to his body after the temporary encampment in which he lived was set alight.
Communities around the country have taken notice. Our research shows memorials have been set up across the UK, 10,000 people have signed architect George Clarke’s petition calling for the construction of 100,000 council houses a year, and the death of Kane Walker in Birmingham has prompted all 10 of the city’s MP’s to call for the passage of new laws that would require public services to work together to prevent homelessness.
Matt Turtle added “Before he died, Kane Walker reportedly said the bedroom tax caused him to lose his home and our research shows that Right to Buy and other policies that have reduced the supply of housing have contributed to this crisis. There’s much evidence that almost a decade of austerity policies has had a clear and direct impact on society’s most vulnerable. We’ve seen communities around the country respond with amazing acts of compassion and campaigns for change. But we need to see real action from government, not the empty promises we’ve heard so far if we’re to prevent so many innocent people from dying unnecessarily.”
Our memorial which honours those we have lost from our community can be found on the project page.