More than 1,200 people in the UK died while homeless in 2021, a 32% increase on the previous year, as cuts to mental illness, drug and alcohol, and housing services took their toll, according to research.
The annual audit by the charity Museum of Homelessness found most deaths occurred among people living in emergency housing or hostels. People sleeping rough or sofa-surfing accounted for 63 deaths, and seven were due to Covid-19.
Of the 253 cases where the cause of death was confirmed, 41% were related to drug and alcohol use, and 12% to suicide, which the charity said reflected the general inadequacy of mental health and addiction services provision.
The charity said that the cost of living and overstretched housing and homelessness budgets were likely to put the lives of many more homeless people at risk in the coming months.
Of the 12 local authority areas which had recorded the highest numbers of deaths in 2020, 11 recorded a rise last year. Seven recorded triple digit percentage increases: Glasgow, Enfield, Bedford, Barnet, Southampton, Stoke and Tower Hamlets.
Last year the total death rate was 1,286 “real and actual” deaths across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland up from 976 in the previous year and 710 in 2020. This was likely to be an underestimate, it said, as not all authorities replied to FoI requests, including large councils such as Birmingham and Blackpool.
The latest official figure for homeless deaths, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December, estimated at least 688 people died while homeless in 2020, although this applied only to England and Wales.
This was a slight fall on record numbers recorded in 2019, attributed to the everyone in scheme, when 37,000 homeless people were provided with a hotel room during the early months of the pandemic. Statisticians said difficulties collecting death registration during lockdown meant it may be an underestimate.