More than 240 people died while homeless in Scotland last year, official figures have revealed.
The National Records of Scotland estimates the number of deaths to have reached 244 – slightly below the last two years.
The figure is well above the 2017 number where it was estimated that 164 people died while homeless. But it’s below 2020’s levels at 256 and the 2021 statistics at 250.
The Homeless Deaths 2022 report also showed the number of deaths attributed to drug misuse among those experiencing homelessness fell significantly from 127 in 2021 to 89 last year. The current number is still up from 68 in 2017.
Edinburgh saw the highest number of deaths of any area in 2022 with 58 people estimated to have died. Some 56 people were estimated to have died in Glasgow in the same year.
Around three-quarters of those who died in Scotland were men. The number of deaths among women returned to previous levels following a dip in 2020 and 2021.
Half of those who died while homeless in 2022 were under 45, the report shows.
Drug misuse accounted for 36% of all deaths among people experiencing homelessness.
Half of all deaths were classed as “external causes” which include most drug misuse deaths, accidents, suicide and assault.
Beth Watson, senior assistant statistician, said: “Our estimate shows a small drop in the number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness between 2021 and 2022 but this change is not statistically significant.
“Our figures go back to 2017 when there were 164 deaths. While the year-on-year change is small, the number is still significantly higher than it was five years ago.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said: “These figures are a national disgrace, but they are not at all surprising. Anyone familiar with the nature of homelessness knows the damage it does to people’s health. It exposes them to physical danger, and it damages their mental health.
“But the truth is that, as more people are forced into the homelessness system, more people will die homeless. And with the system now straining beyond local authorities’ ability to cope, we are seeing more people forced to sleep on the street, more families trapped for long periods in accommodation that’s totally unsuitable, and more people being told there is simply nowhere for them to go.
“We urgently need the Scottish Government to press on with plans to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place. New duties to prevent homelessness, if properly resourced, could allow people to get help before they reach crisis point, to help them avoid being forced from their homes.”
Scottish Conservative shadow housing secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “These figures are a damning verdict on the SNP government’s failure to get a grip on this problem.
“Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, and the numbers remain stubbornly high.
“It goes much wider than drug deaths, which have been a longstanding source of shame for this government.
Scotland’s housing minister, Paul McLennan, said: “Every single one of these deaths is one too many and I extend my sincerest condolences to all those affected.
“We know that people who have experience of homelessness are much more likely to have poor physical and mental health than the general population.
“Scotland has the strongest rights in the UK for people experiencing homelessness, but we are committed to ensuring that no one need become homeless in the first place.
“We are providing local authorities with £30.5m annually for their work to prevent homelessness. Separately, we are providing a total of £100m from our multi-year Ending Homelessness Together fund.
“I have also regularly met with representatives from Scotland’s local authorities and have actively engaged with them to find solutions to help address housing pressures in their area.”
He added: “One focus of the national mission to reduce drug deaths – backed by £250m investment over the life of the Parliament – is to strengthen partnerships between health and other services to improve outcomes for people who use drugs and have multiple needs, such as experiencing homelessness.”
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