Our response to the ONS statistics on deaths of people who are homeless in 2018

Our response to the ONS statistics on deaths of people who are homeless in 2018
1st October 2019 Jessica Turtle

The Memorial Card, 2018 

Our response to the ONS statistics on deaths of homeless people in 2018.

On 14 August 2019 the Museum of Homelessness announced that 235 people affected by homelessness, had died in the first six months of 2019.

Our information, collected from freedom of information requests, public submissions and news reports highlights a desperate situation – in 2019 at least one person is dying every 19 hours due to homelessness.

Today the Office of National Statistics has painted an even worse picture, showing that last year two people per day were estimated to have died homeless. Today, we share our response to this new data. To do this, we have reflected on real life research we inherited from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s work on the Dying Homeless Project throughout 2018.

Real life Research

We were very sad and angered to read the ONS latest figures this morning, but sadly not surprised. Whilst we understand that the ONS statistics are experimental, the real-life research of the Dying Homeless project tells us that these estimates do show a realistic picture of what’s happening on the ground. For example, the ONS estimates that 148 people died in London in 2018. We know that at least 137 verified deaths of people in London were reported to the Dying Homeless Project during the year.

Alcohol and Substance Misuse

We know through our work on the ground that the increase in deaths due to drug and alcohol misuse has a clear link to cuts to services and austerity policies. This is something that is reflected across the country. In April 2019, the Breaking the Boundaries team which gave intensive support to people in Middlesborough was redeployed elsewhere in the local authority. Since then 8 people are reported to have died and local people have identified the withdrawal of the service as a major factor in the increase in homeless deaths.

A UK-wide crisis

Whilst the ONS figures estimate what is happening in England and Wales, the real picture across the United Kingdom is likely to be even direr. For example, our research for the first part of 2019, which includes all areas of the UK, shows a high number of deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland, 166 people between January and June 2019.

The ONS’s latest figures estimate a grossly unacceptable rise in the numbers of people dying on our streets and in temporary accommodation.

But we must not forget that behind these statistics we find our fellow citizens struggling in the midst of a horrific crisis; we find bereaved families and friends and we find people working in services starved of the support they need to prevent further unnecessary deaths.

It is a painful reminder of the ongoing need for this work.

Matt and Jess Turtle

Co-founders | Museum of Homelessness

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