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PA Nick Ansell
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PA Nick Ansell
UK News

'It's absolutely tragic': Christian charity warns serious action is needed as homeless deaths rise for a fifth consecutive year

by Kelly Valencia

Homeless deaths in England and Wales have risen for a fifth consecutive year according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

An estimated 778 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2019, the highest level since records began in 2013. 

Chief Executive of Christian charity Oasis, David Smith, told Premier "it's absolutely tragic" that many people have died "when in the end, this is a preventable issue". 

"We are the sixth or seventh wealthiest country on Earth. People should not be homeless in our country in the United Kingdom today. And the truth of the matter is that for at least a decade, the homelessness figures have been getting worse and worse and worse and worse. There is a real social justice issue here."

Almost two in five deaths were related to drug poisoning, the most common cause of death, accounting for 37 per cent of the total. The figures also showed a 30 per cent increase in homeless people committing suicide, up from 86 estimated deaths in 2018 to 112 in 2019. London and the north-west of England had the highest number of fatalities.

When asked about how the pandemic could impact these figures next year, Smith said it was probably too early to tell but added that "there´s a good chance" of the increase continuing.

"Obviously this year, we've had the Everybody In campaign, which was as a result of the pandemic when the government swept up [rough sleepers] into hotels. 

"That being said, there have been deaths that have come about, almost as a result of this scenario of putting lots of people together in hotels without necessarily the adequate support. We have certainly seen anecdotally this year in our work a much higher proportion of people dying than we would normally see."

As a result of the government's 'Everyone In" scheme, almost 15,000 homeless people in England were moved into safe emergency accommodation such as hotels earlier this year. Smith said that the government should keep that "can-do attitude".

"It was incredible to see the government programme to sweep up everything into hotels. And it just shows you what can be done" he said. "It took a global pandemic, a health issue that affects us all, for us, as a society, and government in particular, to say: "This is not acceptable, we are going to make sure that everybody has a roof over their heads, we're going to make sure that nobody is left on the streets.""

"There are over 300,000 people in this country at this point who are homeless in some way. We need a serious approach to this issue. This is a national crisis. And we've seen what can be done during the pandemic, so we need more of that".

Minister for rough sleeping and housing, Kelly Tolhurst has announced that 43 areas across England will receive a £23m government fund, boosted by a further £52m during 2021 and 2022. 

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