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World News

Salvation Army warns of further deaths for rough sleepers this winter

by Donna Birrell

The Salvation Army is warning that people risk dying on the streets this winter as the cold weather continues to bite.

The warning comes despite new Government figures for England and Wales showing a slight decrease in deaths of homeless people, including rough sleepers.

The Office for National Statistics says there were 11 percent fewer deaths - from 778 in 2019 to 688 in 2020 among homeless people.

It says that the figures for 2020 were affected by the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, under which more than 37,000 people were housed in emergency accommodation from March 2020 amid fears over the pandemic. 

The ONS also says the ‘Everyone In’ scheme made it more difficult to identify homeless people and so the true figure may be higher.

Almost two in five deaths of homeless people were related to drug poisoning in 2020 (265 estimated deaths; 38.5% of the total number), consistent with previous years. 

The Salvation Army's Director of Homelessness Services, Lorrita Johnson, said: “Living on the streets is no place for anyone and even more so as the cold weather bites. While Government figures show a slight decline in deaths during 2020 when the ‘Everyone In’ scheme was in place, in a modern society no-one should have to spend the night on the streets. Even one death on the street is significant and should be avoided.

“The Salvation Army is doing what it can to reach as many vulnerable street sleepers as possible. From taking hot food and support directly to the streets, running pop up accommodation or drop in centres, we are in communities across the UK looking for new ways to reach as many people forced to sleep on the streets over winter.

“Often the root causes of rough sleeping are complex from relationship breakdown, mental health issues, addiction or childhood trauma.

“These aren’t issues that can be tackled quickly and people will often need help and support for many years to ensure they never end up back living on the streets.” 

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