Housing

The final Dying Homeless count shows 796 people died in 18 months

The pioneering Bureau of Investigative Journalism project comes to a close alongside a UCL investigation which found that homeless people are much more likely to die from preventable illnesses than even the most economically deprived housed person

A homeless man sits on the floor of a trin station, wrapped in blankets with a cup in front of them

Image credit: Getty images

The game-changing Bureau of Investigative Journalism project to count the number of homeless deaths has revealed that 796 people have died over the past 18 months.

The final shocking figure brings to an end the Bureau’s project, having already inspired the Office for National Statistics to release their own stats, with the Museum of Homelessness set to take over as custodians later this month.

Alongside the latest count, The Bureau have also teamed up with experts from University College London (UCL) to investigate 4,000 medical records of 600 people who died on the street between 2013 and 2016.

The study found that a homeless people are much more likely to die from preventable and treatable illnesses than even the most economically-deprived housed population.

Conditions like tuberculosis, pneumonia and gastric ulcers accounted for a third of the deaths out of the 600 they investigated.

Late Big Issue vendor Istvan Kakas is included in both studies. The former chef, who died aged 52 from leukaemia in October, was among a fifth of deaths explored by UCL that were cancer-related with homeless people more susceptible to dying from cancer younger than the rest of the population. Another fifth died from digestive diseases such as intestinal obstruction or pancreatitis.

Marcus Adams, 48, Marek Drywa, 59, and 21-year-old Londoner Faizia all suffered from tuberculosis – a killer disease in the past but wildly vaccinated now – before their deaths, according to the study.

Others like 48-year-old former soldier Darren Greenfield died of infections.

“To know that so many vulnerable people have died of conditions that were entirely treatable is heart-breaking,” said Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis. “What’s worse, we’re unable to learn the lessons needed to prevent these senseless deaths from recurring. Governments must urgently expand the systems used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults to include all those who have died while homeless.”

Rob Aldridge, lead academic on the UCL team, told the Bureau: “Our research highlights a failure of the health system to care for this vulnerable group in a timely and appropriate manner.

“We need to identify homeless individuals at risk earlier and develop models of care that enable them to engage with interventions proven to either prevent or improve outcomes for early onset chronic disease. “

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