Housing

The number of homeless deaths since last winter has risen to 550

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism have released updated figures just days before the Office for National Statistics release their first-ever official numbers

Rough sleeper

The UK homeless death toll since last winter has risen to 550 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as the first official figures are set to be released.

The Bureau’s Dying Homeless project revealed that 449 homeless people had died in a year when they unveiled the first count of its kind to widespread shock in October.

But their latest update has uncovered another 105 deaths, among them Big Issue vendors Istvan Kakas and Jo Jones, taking the toll to 554.

The ground-breaking project has beaten the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the race to produce figures, using a network of journalists (including The Big Issue), charities and homelessness organisations.

Experimental ONS stats for England and Wales are due to be released on December 20.

The Bureau’s own campaign has now turned to the lack of funding or support from central government to allow councils to conduct serious case reviews into homeless deaths. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire called for more reviews to be carried out in the wake of the Bureau’s original findings, but a lack of resources has put off some councils while others do not believe the cases meet statutory requirements.

“It is disappointing that no progress has been made to support local authorities to implement this,” said Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis. “We cannot wait any longer, we need to see action now.

“It’s a failure of the largest magnitude that in one of the world’s richest nations, people with nowhere to turn are dying. This has to stop and the government must put in place a full-scale plan to end homelessness once and for all.”

Fabian Bayet Luke McDonnell
Fabian-Bayet-sketch-Stony-Stratford
Luke McDonnell's drawing of Fabian and his pet dog Whippet is now a permanent fixture of Stony Stratford High Street

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, called for specific funding for reviews: “We think there is a strong case for government to fund a separate programme outside of the safeguarding adult review process to ensure every death of someone sleeping rough is reviewed,” he said. “This way we can identify the changes needed, at the local and national level, to stop these tragedies.”

There have been a series of ceremonies to mark the deaths across the country, including one to remember Big Issue vendor Fabian Bayet.

An art tribute was unveiled on Stony Stratford high street in memory of Fabian, affectionately known as Belgium the Waffle for his chatty demeanour.

Other services included the annual memorial at St Martin’s in The Field in November when the names of 170 people that had died homeless in the last year were read out, a candlelit vigil in Manchester and a memorial stone was laid in Long Eaton.

Image: Blodeuwedd/Flickr

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