Housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland has hit out at the “shameful” numbers of rough sleepers dying on the streets of Glasgow after new figures revealed that four homeless people are dying every month in the city.
Figures obtained by the Sunday Herald from Glasgow City Council via freedom of information request reveal that at least 39 homeless people have died in Glasgow in the space of just 10 months.
The deaths occurred between May 2016 and March 2017 with the council admitting that the numbers likely underestimate the full scale of the scandal.
Details of the number of deaths in other major Scottish cities are currently unavailable.
“Each one of these cases represents a human life lost too soon,” said Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland. “We know that homeless people, in particular those who sleep rough, have worse health than the general population and are far more likely to die young.
“It is simply shameful that this is happening in 21st-century Scotland. Sadly, we know that homelessness is still far from fixed in Glasgow and across Scotland today.
“We urgently need real leadership and action across local and national government to get to grips with this problem.
“Safe, secure and affordable housing is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of all of us as individuals and Scotland as a country. We hope the new administration in the city will prioritise tackling this challenge head on as a matter of urgency.”
The figures were collated through a critical incident group which was set up in October 2016 but backdated to May that same year.
However, the council admits that it may not include all homeless deaths in the city “such as deaths of rough sleepers who are not from Glasgow or not engaged with our services”.
Out of the 39 recent deaths in Glasgow, only five were over the age of 60, with the vast majority aged between 25 and 59.
One of those was Matthew Bloomer, 28, who was found dead outside the TJ Hughes department store on Argyle Street in Glasgow’s Trongate in March after spending the night outside in freezing conditions.
The campaign group Homelessness Shames Glasgow had engaged in lobbying and direct actions to raise the profile of the issue, as well as organising food and blanket distributions to people on the street.
It has also called on empty buildings to be opened up to rough sleepers in order to protect them from the elements and prevent any future deaths.
Glasgow City Council says it receives around 6,000 formal homelessness applications each year, with 2,000 people housed in temporary accommodation at any one time.
A spokesman for Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership said: “These figures sadly reflect the harmful lifestyles and risk taking behaviours of some people who are affected by homelessness.
“In Glasgow there is a wide range of support available for vulnerable people and we are looking to implement new services that are relevant to those affected by homelessness, particularly in the city centre.
“We do whatever we can to engage with vulnerable people but offers of support can be declined.”