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More than 200 people died while homeless in Scotland in 2019

Homeless person - Image credit: PA

More than 200 people died while homeless in Scotland in 2019

More than 200 people died while homeless in 2019, the latest statistics from National Records of Scotland show.

The statistics record 216 deaths of people experiencing homeless, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year and 32 per cent over two years.

The average of those who died was 43 for men and just 39 for women, with men making up 73 per cent of the deaths.

More than half (54 per cent) of the deaths were drug related.

Scotland had the highest rate of homeless deaths in 2019 when compared to England and Wales, with a rate of 52.2 deaths per million population compared to 18.0 in England and 14.3 in Wales.

Commenting on the figures, Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The rising number of people dying at an ever younger age while experiencing homelessness is shocking.

“Housing is a matter of life and death. These deaths fall in the long shadow cast by the shortage of social housing.

“While not often a direct cause of death, being denied the security of a safe and affordable social home adds to the instability many need to rebuild their lives.

“It creates new health problems and exacerbates those that already exist.

“Scotland has some of the strongest laws protecting people against homelessness in the world and a commitment to innovate with new approaches like Housing First, but that system is constantly undermined by the shortage of permanent social housing.

“It is a shortage that leads to long stays in temporary accommodation, people trapped in hotels not homes, record numbers of children perpetually homeless.

“Today’s shocking statistics relate to the year before the pandemic. It shows we must never go back to the ways of the past.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s truly heart-breaking that hundreds of people died without the dignity of a safe home.

“Behind these statistics are real people with families, friends and their own individual stories, and they must not be forgotten.

“Far too many lives have been cut short and many of these deaths will have been avoidable.

“We need to learn from these failings and put in place measures to stop this from happening in the future.

“Action taken during the pandemic has proven that when the political will is there, we can save lives, but we are concerned that as the economic impact of lockdown hits, more people will be pushed towards losing their homes.

“The best way to prevent homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place.

“That’s why we are calling on all parties to make preventing homelessness a national priority ahead of the election.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP said: “These statistics reveal the pre-pandemic tragedy of homeless deaths in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government claims that ending homelessness is a priority, but these figures show that, sadly, its action has not lived up to that rhetoric. 

“Early on in the pandemic there was a huge effort to effectively end street homelessness.

“It showed what could be done when there is an urgent political imperative to act.

“Now, as we look toward the future beyond the pandemic it's essential that ending homelessness genuinely becomes a priority for government.”

Lib Dem housing spokesperson Paul McGarry commented: “These figures are absolutely heart-breaking.

“The Government should be ashamed by the frequency of deaths on our streets and in temporary accommodation.

“Hundreds of homeless people and their families have been utterly failed.

“Two years ago, we warned the Government that there was a homeless deaths emergency but as these figures show, the response was nowhere near good enough.

“Yet during lockdown the government was forced to take radical action and to find homes for people who needed them. That showed what has been possible all along.

“It is a basic responsibility to ensure every person has a long term place to call home.

“These statistics show how important it is that following the pandemic we do not regress and that we ensure that adequate accommodation and support is being created.

“The extent of both the homelessness death emergency and the drugs crisis in Scotland has been evident to everyone.

“There must be no backsliding on homelessness now from the Scottish Government.”

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