Nearly 200 homeless people die in Scotland in a year

Scotland has the highest rate of homeless deaths in the UK, with nearly four people dying a week.

Homelessness: Deaths rise by a fifth in a year.
Homelessness: Deaths rise by a fifth in a year.

Almost 200 homeless people died in Scotland in a year, according to new figures.

The country has a proportionally higher number of homeless deaths than England and Wales combined, with 35.9 deaths per million of the population in Scotland.

This compares to 16.8 deaths per million in England and 14.5 per million in Wales.

A total of 195 homeless people are estimated to have died in 2018 in Scotland – nearly four a week – up 19% from the estimate of 164 in 2017.

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) said the new “experimental” statistics were still being tested and were brought in after demand from the public.

They include people who were in temporary accommodation at the time of their death as well as those who were sleeping rough.

The NRS found that more than half of homeless deaths in 2018 were drug-related – a total of 104 (53%).

The Scottish Government said the new figures would help ministers renew efforts to “eradicate homelessness” but stressed they showed the factors around homeless deaths are “complex”.

On the Scottish mainland, the Glasgow City Council area had the highest rate of homeless people dying, with 100.5 per million, followed by the Aberdeen City Council area on 67 per million.

‘These figures are absolutely devastating. Both of Scotland’s governments should be mortified and guilt-ridden by the frequency of deaths on our streets and in temporary accommodation. Hundreds of people, and each of their families, have been utterly failed.’

Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Shetland Islands had a homeless death rate of 111.8 per million, but statisticians stressed this was based on a very small number of deaths and should be interpreted with caution.

Nearly four-fifths (79%) of homeless deaths in Scotland were men, up from 74% in 201, with the mean age at death 44 for men and 43 for women.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “The reasons that lead to homelessness are often very complex, and many people who died while experiencing homelessness will have struggled with complex life challenges including addiction, poor mental health, and family breakdown.

“These challenges are often driven by a history of poverty, childhood adversity and trauma, including deteriorating physical and mental health, poor housing, contact with the criminal justice system, and other issues.

He said one homeless person is “one too many”, adding: “While this report is based on experimental statistics, its findings will help the Scottish Government to further understand the many issues affecting the most vulnerable in our society and will help us as we double our efforts to eradicate homelessness and its causes.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Behind these shocking figures lie individual personal tragedies – people living in desperate situations ultimately failed by the system.

“They will leave behind them bereaved relatives and friends, who have our sympathies.

“It is vital that the effort to end this loss of life does not end with the publication of the figures.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton called the figures “absolutely devastating”, saying: “Both of Scotland’s governments should be mortified and guilt-ridden by the frequency of deaths on our streets and in temporary accommodation.

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

“It’s one of the most basic responsibilities of the state to look after those who don’t even have a roof over their head.”

He added: “The extent of both the homelessness death emergency and the drugs crisis in Scotland has been laid bare.

“It’s shocking to see the situation here being so much worse than the rest of the UK.”

Paul Lowe, the Registrar General for Scotland, said: “NRS has developed a method of estimating the incidence of homeless deaths in response to user demand.

“It is important to stress that these are experimental statistics and we will continue to work with users and stakeholders to assess their suitability and quality.”