Monday 14 December 2020 / 12:10 PM Housing / Thangam Debbonaire

Homeless deaths should raise alarm as we head into dangerous winter for rough sleepers

Alarming data from the ONS on deaths of homeless people in England and Wales reveals this morning that 778 died homeless last year, 52 more than the previous year, and the highest number of estimated deaths since the time series began in 2013. Of particular concern is that suicides among homeless people has increased by 30 per cent in just one year.

This comes as Keir Starmer has written to the Prime Minister warning that the rough sleeping crisis this Christmas is “just the tip of the iceberg” of poverty and destitution. 

Before the pandemic, rough sleeping had already doubled over the 10 years of Conservative governments.

While Covid will significantly increase the risks associated with sleeping rough this winter, homelessness services told Labour that they won’t have the tools they would usually use to help people off the streets. In one case, less than one third of the night shelter beds on offer last year will be available this winter. Thousands of rough sleepers risk being turned away from life-saving shelter.


Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, responding to this new data, said:

“The rapid increase in these deaths over the last six years is a shameful sign of Government failure and should raise alarm at the top of Government.

“Before the Covid crisis, a record number of people were dying while homeless. This winter will be even more dangerous.

“The Government must commit that nobody will spend Christmas on the streets – this is a matter of life or death.”