OVER 200 people experiencing homelessness died in 2019 – a rise of 11% in a year.
According to latest National Records of Scotland data, Scotland has the highest homeless death rate when compared to England and Wales, with a rate of 52.2 per million population aged 15-74 compared to 18.0 in England and 14.3 in Wales.
In 2018 the homeless death rate in Scotland was 35.9 per million.
More than half of the homeless deaths were drug-related.
Tragically, the average age at death is falling – and is now 43 for men and just 39 for women. In 2018 it was 44 for men and 43 for females.
Housing charity Shelter Scotland said a lack of safe, secure and affordable social homes is a major factor in the deaths.
The experimental NRS figures estimate there were 216 people who died while homeless in 2019 – a rise of 21 deaths from the 2018 estimates.
Almost three quarters of the death toll were males, accounting for 157 deaths. The average age at death in 2019 was 43 years for males and 39 years for females.
The figures, included people who were in temporary accommodation at the time of their death as well as those who were sleeping rough.
Shelter Scotland described the rising number of people dying “at an every younger age while experiencing homelessness is shocking”.
“The rising number of people dying at an ever younger age while experiencing homelessness is shocking.
The Scottish Tenants Organisation described the death toll as “a disgrace and a scandal”.
Inverclyde recorded the highest homless death rate in Scotland – with 213.2 deaths per million, followed by Na h-Eileanan Siar (191.4), South Ayrshire (120.3) and North Ayrshire (11.8). In 2018 Glasgow City (100.5) and Aberdeen City (67.8) had the highest homeless death rates per million population.
Six local authority areas had no recorded homeless deaths – Shetland Islands, Scottish Borders, Moray, East Renfrewshire, East Lothian and Argyll and Bute.
It comes as the social justice group Museum of Homelessness (MoH) said on Monday that almost 1,000 homeless people died across the UK last year.
More than 12,000 Scots children were homeless last Christmas
The MoH said the figure rose by more than a third on the previous year, and called for more to be done to stop such ‘terrible loss of life’. It means that someone homeless on average died every 9 and half hours last year.
In 2020, the museum’s Dying Homeless Project recorded 976 deaths across the four nations.
The MoH said its findings showed that less than 3% of recorded causes of death were directly attributed to coronavirus, which it described as a ‘significant achievement’ of the scheme.
Last week, a photo of 200 homeless people queueing in freezing temperatures and snow for a soup kitchen in Glasgow prompted an outpouring of anger, as the
One volunteer from the Kindness Homeless Street Team said “this has to end”, as the group experienced one of its busiest ever nights.
With temperatures plummeting as low as -6C, hundreds of people were forced to wait in line to receive a hot meal.
The SNP has previously pointed to the role of the UK government’s welfare system in the homeless crisis.
And in response to the outcry over the photograph, the Scottish Government said rough sleeping in Scotland was at a record low and insisted there was “no shortage in food provision for those supported by services in B&Bs and hotels or in rapid rehousing welcome centres”.
After the Covid-19 outbreak began, the Scottish government introduced emergency measures to move the vast majority of rough sleepers into temporary accommodation such as hotels and bed and breakfast.
Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “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.
“These shocking statistics relate to the year before the pandemic. It shows we must never go back to the ways of the past.
“Next month the Scottish Government is expected to set out a new Housing 2040 strategy. Today’s figures show that building enough homes to reduce housing inequality isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the critical to the life and health of the people and communities of Scotland.”
Sean Clerkin of the Scottish Tenants Organisation said homeless death toll was “a disgrace” and added that it was “scandalous in that so many human beings had to die alone and unknown in the 21st century”.
He added: “These deaths could have been avoided by providing real resources to build at least 12,000 social homes a year in Scotland, provide wraparound services for drugs, alcohol and mental health and end harmful and substandard temporary accommodation.”
NRS’s head of vital events, Julie Ramsay said: “Given the importance of having information on the number of homeless deaths in Scotland, we worked with ONS to develop this methodology to provide estimates.
“While these statistics help our understanding of this issue, it’s important to understand these figures are currently experimental and the methodology is under development.“
These estimates do provide context and show that homeless deaths have increased for the second consecutive year, with an 11% increase on the estimate in 2018.
In December, the Scottish Government was urged to build more social homes and ramp up support services after data revealed thousands of children spent the previous Christmas without a permanent place of shelter.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats demanded the Scottish Government takes “urgent and drastic” action to put things right after figures uncovered by the party showed no improvement has been made over a four-year period.
Statistics revealed that more than 12,000 children and 25,000 adults were homeless in Christmas, 2019.