New ONS data relating to deaths of homeless people a stark and tragic reminder of risks

Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s responds to the latest statistics which document deaths in 2019.

St Mungo’s has reacted to the release of new national data related to the number of homeless people who lost their lives in 2019, calling them “a tragedy” and “a stark reminder” of the risks posed by homelessness.

The Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales 2019 statistics were released today (14 December) by the Office for National Statistics.

They show that during 2019 an estimated 778 people died while homeless which is the highest number since 2013 when the data was first collated and a 7.2% increase on the 726 people in 2018.

The data, which pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic, also shows that in 2019:

  • Almost two in five deaths of homeless people were related to drug poisoning (289 estimated deaths) 52.1% higher than 2017
  • Suicides among homeless people increased by 30.2% from the previous year
  • Almost nine out of 10 (88.3%) of homeless people who died were men
  • The mean age at death for people who were homeless was 45.9 years for men, and 43.4 years for women; in the general population of England and Wales, the mean age at death was 76.1 years for men and 80.9 years for women

St Mungo’s Chief Executive Steve Douglas CBE said: “It is so very important to remember that behind these statistics are people and that every single one of these deaths is a tragedy. Our sympathies go out to everyone who has been affected by them. Particularly heart-breaking are the number of people who have taken their own lives.

“What we see in this data, although deeply concerning, is sadly not a surprise to us. It is a stark reminder how dangerous homelessness can be. People are not just living on our streets, they are dying on them.

“We know that those who are homeless face many different challenges, and it so important that both the housing and the support that is needed, is prioritised,” he said.

Referencing the number of substance misuse related deaths, Mr Douglas continued: “This reflects our own Knocked Back research, which we published earlier this year.

“We know it is increasingly difficult for people sleeping rough to access the substance misuse services they need. So I welcome the news today of the allocations of funding by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government which is specifically aimed at supporting people with substance misuse issues.

“It is vital that anyone experiencing homelessness is able to easily access the right services for them, including drug and alcohol support, mental health support and medical care.

“We at St Mungo’s will continue to work with national and local government, and our local partners, to enable as many people as possible to get the help and support needed to recover from homelessness, and not to have sleeping on the streets as the only option. The ‘Everyone In’ programme proved this is possible,” he said.