Homeless deaths rise again as call made for ‘urgent action’

An estimated 58 homeless deaths occurred in the city in 2022, new statistics released by National Records of Scotland revealed.

Homeless deaths rise again as call made for ‘urgent action’ PA Media

The number of people who died whilst homeless in Edinburgh rose again last year – as shocking new data reveals the capital as having the highest rate of anywhere in Scotland.

An estimated 58 homeless deaths occurred in the city in 2022, new statistics released by National Records of Scotland revealed.

The figure has more than doubled in the past five years – having risen over three times faster than the national rate – and a 31 per cent rise from 2021.

Edinburgh had the most homeless deaths overall, with Glasgow second, and the highest rate in the country at 138.5 per million of the population.

This represents the number registered as homeless who have passed away, rather than the number of rough sleepers to have died.

Charity Shelter Scotland said it “starkly demonstrates why action is so urgently needed”.

The council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener Jane Meagher, whose motion to declare a housing emergency was unanimously passed by councillors this month, said the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 1,000 in the last three years “which explains why the city’s homeless death rate has also sadly risen”.

She said: “Given that we have more homeless households than elsewhere in Scotland, it’s not surprising that this is reflected in a higher numbers of deaths in Edinburgh.”

The council has said the key issue behind the city’s homelessness crisis is a lack of affordable housing, with over 24,000 sitting on the authority’s waiting list for permanent accommodation.

Edinburgh’s housing emergency was formally declared in response to the issues relating to affordable housing shortages, rising homelessness rates and spiralling private rental costs — becoming the first city in Scotland to take such a step.

An emergency action plan to address the crisis is being drafted following the announcement. This will include asking for “fairer funding” from the Scottish Government and “taking measures to accelerate what we already do to make a difference”.

Responding to the latest statistics Councillor Meagher, Labour, said: “It’s really sad when anyone passes away especially while being supported by the Council and our registered social landlords. These stark figures reflect just how deeply the homelessness crisis has been taking hold in Edinburgh.

“In the past three years, the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by more than 1,000 – which explains why the city’s homeless death rate has also sadly risen. Given that we have more homeless households than elsewhere in Scotland, it’s not surprising that this is reflected in a higher numbers of deaths in Edinburgh.

“A lot of the time, we don’t know the cause of death due to patient confidentiality, but we continue to work with partner agencies to do everything we can to support those who may be at risk, particularly those with additional health needs. We must also continue to prevent people losing their home wherever we can and will discuss a Homeless Action Plan at Committee next week.

“The key issue facing Edinburgh is a severe housing shortage, which is precisely why we’ve declared a Housing Emergency. We won’t stop making our case to the Scottish Government for fairer funding until our calls are answered.”

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “It should be a source of deep collective shame that anyone in Scotland should lose their lives with nowhere safe and secure to call home.

“By coming to declare a housing emergency recently, councillors in Edinburgh acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, and gave themselves the license to deliver the emergency response necessary.

“Today’s news starkly demonstrates why action is so urgently needed.”

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