Call for homeless deaths to be recorded as ‘disgraceful’ figures reveal almost two die a week on Scotland’s streets

Senior figures working to tackle homelessness are calling on the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to urgently investigate the deaths of those who are homeless after new research revealed at least 94 men and women have died while homeless in Scotland in the last 12 months.

New data released by investigative platform The Ferret in partnership with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) includes 42 deaths recorded in the Bureau Dying Homeless database, along with a further 52 which The Ferret has learned of. The Ferret added that its investigations suggest the numbers are likely to be a “significant under-estimate”.

TBIJ says at least 449 people have died homeless in the last year across the UK, more than one person a day, though again homeless organisations have said the number is likely to be an under-estimate.

Of the UK total recorded in the database so far, 138 people can be publicly identified – more names are known to journalists but have been withheld at the request of those who knew them.

Deaths of the “hidden homeless” including those who were sofa surfing or in prison were also counted. Almost 70% were men.

The average age of death for men was 49 years old, and for women it was 53.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown gives his reaction to the figures

Figures from the critical incident and homeless deaths group, set up by Glasgow City Council in 2016, show 47 people with open homelessness assessments died in the city between October 2017 and October 2018. These included people in temporary furnished flats and hostel accommodation.

Also in Glasgow, nine people died in Simon Community Scotland supported accommodation over the last year, while other deaths were reported in hostels around the city – including the Bellgrove Hotel – and beyond.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, called on the Scottish Government to allocate some of the recently announced £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund to investigate why people are dying while homeless and then use that information to redesign services so they can help those currently failed by the system

He said: “These numbers are both a tragedy and a disgrace and, sadly, probably don’t give the full picture of what is happening to homeless people in Scotland.

“More than one life a week being lost to homelessness is a terrible statistic. Let’s remember that behind these numbers are people – they were someone’s brother, sister, mother, father or friend. And their loss is a tragedy deeply felt by all those around them.”

Graeme Brown provides his solution to the problem

Mr Brown added: “In many cases there is not enough information about why they died or their circumstances. Shelter Scotland believes much more should be done to find out what caused these deaths and what can be done to prevent these personal tragedies being repeated across Scotland and indeed throughout the UK.”

Hugh Hill from Simon Community Scotland said: “We record drug deaths, we need to record the housing status of people dying.

“We have anecdotal evidence of disproportionately high numbers of deaths but no one is recording deaths whilst homeless.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart added: “The avoidable death of any vulnerable person in our society is a tragedy, and preventing and ending homelessness are priorities for the Scottish Government.

“We are working with partners to transform the homelessness system so that people can secure a permanent home, with support for their health and wellbeing if they need this, far more quickly. To support this, we have created a £50m Ending Homelessness Together Fund over five years. We are also consulting on a new alcohol and drug treatment strategy which will be supported by an additional £20m annually.”