Grim death toll of Preston's homeless people

Official estimates reveal just how many people have died on the city's streets

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 7:00 am

Nearly 20 homeless people have died in Preston over the past seven years, official estimates show.

Homelessness charities said the increasing number dying across England and Wales shows the danger of rough sleeping, even before Covid-19.

Office for National Statistics figures show an estimated 19 homeless people died in Preston between 2013 and 2019.

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Nearly 20 homeless people have died in Preston over the past seven years, official estimates show

The figures are based on registered deaths plus an estimate of how many people died without being correctly identified as homeless. They mainly include people sleeping rough or using emergency accommodation.

There were four deaths in the area last year, according to the figures – although this was down from five in 2018.

An estimated 778 homeless people died in 2019 across England and Wales – that was seven per cent up from the previous year, and the fifth yearly increase in a row.

Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said the figures showed how dangerous homelessness and rough sleeping can be, even before the coronavirus outbreak.

“No one should die on the streets or in a temporary bed in a hostel,” she said.

“It is awful to think so many people spent their final moments without a safe home in 2019.”

The pandemic has made the streets “even more dangerous”, she added.

The figures also show 37 per cent of the estimated deaths across England and Wales were related to drug poisoning, while suicides among homeless people increased by 30 per cent from 86 estimated deaths in 2018 to 112 in 2019.

Nearly 90 per cent of the deaths registered in 2019 were among men.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “It is devastating that hundreds of people died without the dignity of a stable home.

“Every one of these human beings will have had different lives, different characters and different stories.

“It is heart-breaking that what unites them is the systematic failure of successive governments.”

Mr Sparkes said it is particularly shocking that suicides among homeless people have increased so sharply, and urged the UK Government to expand the system used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults to include those who die while homeless.

Mr Sparkes also called for homeless people to be given “prompt and equitable” access to the coronavirus vaccine.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Every death of someone sleeping rough on our streets is one too many.

“That’s why we are investing over £700m to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness this year alone – as part of our mission to end rough sleeping for good.

“And today we have announced extra support for rough sleepers and vulnerable people to help them recover from drug and alcohol dependency.”