Museum of Homelessness honours the 1286 people experiencing homelessness who died in 2021

Museum of Homelessness honours the 1286 people experiencing homelessness who died in 2021
31st March 2022 Jessica Turtle

New research from the Museum of Homelessness Dying Homeless Project reveals 1286 people experiencing homelessness died in 2021.

  • 300+ freedom of information requests reveal appalling new figures
  • A fatality occurs every 7 hours on average as deaths rise 80% in two years
  • Few Covid deaths but cuts to housing, mental health and addiction services take their toll
  • Many fatalities occurring in unsafe, unregulated, tax-payer funded accommodation
  • New cuts to Discretionary Housing Payments and cost of living crisis place lives at risk

About the research

New Research by Museum of Homelessness has revealed another devastating increase in the number of people dying while homeless.

The Dying Homeless Project recorded 1286 deaths across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 2021. This was a 32% increase on the numbers reported in our 2020 study – and a staggering 80% increase over the number we published in 2019. These statistics include people sleeping rough as well as those placed in emergency accommodation and other insecure settings. Each fatality was verified by a freedom of information request, coroners’ report, charity or family member.

You can download our 2020 findings here

You can download the 2021 findings here

Our findings showed a spike of deaths in Northern Ireland – where fatalities tripled to 325. Significant increases were also recorded in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bedford, Southampton and London boroughs like Enfield, Westminster and Tower Hamlets. Only 7 fatalities were due to COVID19.  However, cuts to mental health and addiction services mean too many people don’t get the support they need. Of the cases in which we have confirmed the cause of death, 41% were related to drug and alcohol use and 12% died from completing suicide.

The Dying Homeless Project investigation shows a swathe of society has been abandoned. With the cost of living crisis set to push 1.3 million people into absolute poverty, many more lives will be put at risk.

Thanks goes to the Speedomick Foundation who have funded this important work.

Responses to the fiindings

Cofounder of MoH Jess Turtle said, “These findings are a hammer blow. It’s heart-breaking to see so many people dying and to feel so helpless in the face of such a serious emergency. Government neglect means things keep getting worse with new provision for mental health, addiction and social housing failing to make up for previous cuts.

“If the government took this situation seriously, it wouldn’t have slashed the budget for discretionary housing payments by over a third last month – making it harder for councils to offer the people the breathing space they need to avoid homelessness.  Reversing this £40 million cut and ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance rates should be immediate priorities so that people have a fighting chance of meeting the spike in private rents.

“Ultimately, the government can’t fix what it doesn’t understand. There needs to be a confidential enquiry into the deaths of homeless people to allow an honest appraisal of what’s happening to the UK’s most vulnerable people. There should also be mandatory fatality reviews for all local authorities – so lessons can be learned from each death.”

“Cofounder of MoH Matt Turtle said: “Too many people are dying in dangerous accommodation run by unregulated landlords and funded by the taxpayer. Our research suggests over 90% of deaths in the cases where we know of a person’s situation occurred after they were placed in insecure accommodation.

These often occur in taxpayer funded hostels which are exempt from the price cap local authorities apply to shared accommodation as they are meant to provide people experiencing homelessness with care as well as safe place to live temporarily. But many fail to meet their most basic obligations.

The companies managing exempt accommodation now receive over £800 million a year from the public purse. The government needs to urgently regulate these businesses – providing proper oversight so people are protected and our taxes stop funding negligent landlords.”

Our National Vigil

On 31st March Museum of Homelessness and frontline groups including the Simon Community, Streets Kitchen and The Outside Project will hold a vigil outside Downing Street from 6pm – 8pm. All welcome. People are invited to light a candle there or at home and post it online with the hashtag #MakeThemCount

Find out more here.

We have updated our Dying Homeless memorial site with tributes that have been submitted for people who died in 2021. You can visit the memorial here:

Dying Homeless Project memorial

For Journalists

Museum of Homelessness has been running the Dying Homeless Project since 2019, when the Bureau of Investigative journalism handed it over, having begun this groundbreaking work in 2017. The project aims to capture far more detail on the people who have lost their lives than currently covered by official statistics. We want to help public services and front-line charities provide more effective services. It is a project which honours and remembers people who would so often be forgotten.

Download the full press release for 2021 here

The project currently includes an online memorial, a national coalition to take action on homeless deaths and regular death cafes for the community to support each other in grief.

Museum of Homelessness is a multi-award-winning museum led by its community. The museum makes tomorrow’s history by building the national collection for homelessness; it takes direct practical action in support of the community; it fights injustice through independent research and campaigning and educates on homelessness by working with artists and creatives to make unforgettable art, exhibitions and events.

The Dying Homeless Project is part of the museum’s campaigning work and we run it because everyone involved in the museum has lost people too early.

Founders of MoH Jess and Matt Turtle available for interview.



Comments (2)

  1. herman hock 2 months ago

    Could you please provide a breakdown by sex.

    • Author
      Jessica Turtle 2 months ago

      Hi Herman, thanks for your comment, the breakdown you are looking for is in page 15 of the report published on this post.

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