Remembering people who die while homeless
The Dying Homeless Project was set up by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in October 2017 and taken on by Museum of Homelessness in April 2019. It aims to document and remember every person who dies whilst homeless in the United Kingdom. The project remembers people on an online memorial page and holds local and national events to commemorate people who have died.
Since the project began in October 2017, it has documented the deaths of 5232 people on its memorial. The figures in its most recent report are correct as at 4th April 2023.
The report collected information on 1313 deaths in 2022 of people experiencing homelessness. Last year the project reported 1286 deaths, and the year before 976 deaths. The total number of deaths reported is likely to be higher than the figures suggest, as several local authorities did not respond to FOI requests.
For example, Birmingham does not collect information on how and when people are dying in homelessness settings. Additionally, not all councils provided all the types of information requested. For example, some just gave us information about several deaths but no further details. Therefore, the detailed information related to specific themes (e.g., age, causes) is based on a the sub-sample for which this information is available.
This year, the project documented a 2% increase from the deaths it reported last year with an increase in the number of people dying while homeless in England and Wales, with decreases in Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to the year before. Overall, this is an 85% increase over the 2018 number.
The figures for the number of people dying while homeless in the four countries of the United Kingdom for the last three years are shown in the chart below which I have reproduced from the report.
Causes of death
The most common cause of dying while homeless are physical health problems followed by deaths related to drug and alcohol use and overdoses. In particular, 24 drug related and overdose deaths were of people living on the streets and who had no fixed abode.
Last year the project reported on 31 people taking their own lives; this has increased to 35 this year. Five of these deaths were of people who were street homeless and had no fixed abode.
You can see the chart from the report below.
Age of people dying
The project was able to ascertain the age of 951 people out of the total. Analysis shows that people experiencing homelessness are dying at very young ages, with the highest proportions dying between the ages of 36-55.
Recent investigations have highlighted the huge numbers of children growing up homeless and in temporary accommodation, while at the other end of the spectrum, there were 12 deaths of people aged over 90 experiencing homelessness, all of whom were in Northern Ireland.
Again, I reproduce the chart from the report below.
You can see the memorials of all the 5428 people who have died whilst homeless since October 2017 at this page from the Museum of Homelessness ensuring that people remember that every statistic represents a human life tragically lost early.