Rise in deaths of homeless people sleeping in bins

Homelessness charities and waste-industry officials are calling for action to prevent the “terrible fatalities”.


At least seven people are known to have been killed in the last five years due to sleeping rough in bins, a waste-industry report has found.

A number of homelessness charities and waste-industry officials are calling for action to prevent the “terrible fatalities”, after incidents in which vulnerable people sleeping in waste containers have died after being accidentally tipped into bin lorries.

A report by the waste company Biffa, the Open University, and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management found the problem of rough sleepers sheltering in bins had surged in the last five years.

Although most incidents are said to take place in the winter, the report highlighted that people were being discovered inside waste containers by bin collectors at all times of the year.

Rough sleepers are typically discovered inside closed containers during cold weather in secluded urban areas, according to the survey of 57 waste disposal companies and councils.

But the report revealed that people are increasingly being discovered sheltering in bins in towns and villages as the homelessness crisis worsens.

From April to December 2019, Biffa employees recorded 109 “near-misses” or encounters with people either sleeping in or near its bins – with Swindon, Sheffield, Newton Abbot, central London, Cardiff, and South Shields all understood to be ‘hotspots’ for such incidents.

As reported by 24housing in February, Britain’s biggest union dismissed bin shelters pitched by a multi-millionaire as a solution to rough sleeping.

Businessman Peter Dawe released a video of himself climbing into two bins that he had fashioned into a shelter, which he says could help protect rough sleepers.

Unite cited stats also revealed a fifth of those working in the waste industry have found people sleeping in bins.

In the report, Petra Salva, head of rough sleeping at St Mungo’s, said: “Latest statistics show that 726 homeless people died while street homeless or in emergency accommodation in England and Wales in 2018.

“As this report notes, regrettably, homelessness and rough sleeping has risen drastically over the last decade. People dying while homeless is an absolute tragedy.

“Terrible fatalities occur when people seek refuge in bins. We think it’s unacceptable that people are forced to sleep rough in the first place but almost unthinkable that people are so desperate that they will seek refuge in bin containers.

“And some of the most vulnerable people in our society find themselves in this situation, facing not just homelessness but also mental and physical health issues, drug or alcohol problems, maybe long histories of neglect and abuse.”

The government has since acknowledged it is “unacceptable” for anyone to be forced to take shelter in waste disposal containers.

A spokesperson for MHCLG said: “It is completely unacceptable that anyone should have to face sleeping in these conditions in modern Britain.

“This does not reflect the society we should be,and this is why we have committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of this parliament.

“We have also committed a record £1.2bn into funding services for rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless and have introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act, which means councils [can] take action to prevent homelessness before it happens.”

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