Third of those homeless died from treatable conditions

Research reveals an average of 11 homeless people a week have died in the UK in the last 18 months.


Nearly a third of homeless people die from treatable conditions, meaning hundreds of deaths could potentially have been prevented, a new study shows.

The research by University College London (UCL), shared with the Bureau, also reveals that homeless people are much more likely to die from certain conditions than even the poorest people who have a place to live.

The findings come as the final count from the Dying Homeless project, showing that an average of 11 homeless people a week have died in the UK in the last 18 months.

After collecting data dating back to October 2017 and telling the stories of those who have died on the streets or in temporary accommodation; the Bureau investigation tally now stands at 796 people.

The report further reveals that of those ages known, more than a quarter were under 40 when then they died.

The investigation highlights that many might ‘assume’ hypothermia or drug and alcohol overdoses kill most homeless people, but this latest research by UCL shows that in fact most homeless people die from illnesses.

Nearly a third of the deaths explored by UCL were from treatable illnesses like tuberculosis, pneumonia or gastric ulcers which could potentially have improved with the right medical care.

One case study as identified in the report is of 48-year old, Marcus Adams, who died in hospital after suffering from tuberculosis.

The same year, 21-year-old Faiza died in London, reportedly of multi-drug resistant pulmonary tuberculosis.

Just before Christmas in 2017, 48-year-old former soldier Darren Greenfield died from an infection and a stroke in hospital, sleeping rough for years after leaving the army.

Academics at UCL are said to have explored nearly 4,000 in-depth medical records for 600 people that died in English hospitals between 2013 and 2016 who were homeless when they were admitted.

They compared them to the deaths of a similar group of people (in terms of age and sex) who had somewhere to live but were in the lowest socio-economic bracket.

The report reveals that the homeless group was ‘disproportionately affected’ by cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes and heart disease, with researchers further identifying that homeless people were twice as likely to die of strokes as the poorest people who had proper accommodation.

Fifth of the 600 deaths explored by UCL were caused by cancer, with another fifth reported as dying from digestive diseases such as intestinal obstruction or pancreatitis.

For the last year the Bureau has said to have been logging the names and details of people that have died homeless since 1st October 2017, starting the count after discovering that no single body or organisation was recording when people were dying while homeless.

Cllr Emina Ibrahim, Haringey Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, told the Bureau: “The deaths of homeless people are frequently missed in formal reviews, with their lives unremembered.

“Our new procedure looks to change that and will play an important part in helping us to reduce these devastating and avoidable deaths.”

Matt Downie from Crisis said the Bureau’s work on the issue had achieved “major impact”, adding: “As it comes to an end, it is difficult to overstate the importance of the Dying Homeless Project, which has shed new light on a subject that was ignored for too long.

“It is an encouraging step that the ONS has begun to count these deaths and that the stories of those who have so tragically lost their lives will live on through the Museum of Homelessness.”

The government has pledged to end rough sleeping by 2027, and has also pledged a further £100m to try to achieve that goal, as part of an overall £1.2bn investment into tackling homelessness.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “No one is meant to spend their lives on the streets, or without a home to call their own.

“Every death on our streets is too many and it is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short this way.

He added: “I am also committed to ensuring independent reviews into the deaths of rough sleepers are conducted, where appropriate – and I will be holding local authorities to account in doing just that.”

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