Charities in the United Kingdom have slammed the government’s failure to tackle the rising levels of homelessness in the country, which left hundreds dead last year, saying the housing crisis in Britain had become more brutal and horrifying than ever.
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said Tuesday that a recent study which showed 449 homeless people died in Britain last year, many while sleeping rough, exposed the “unforgivable” nature of the housing crisis in the country.
“This important investigation lays bare the true brutality of our housing crisis,” said Neate, adding, “Rising levels of homelessness are a national disgrace, but it is utterly unforgivable that so many homeless people are dying unnoticed and unaccounted for.”
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) said in its report on homelessness on Monday that people aged between 18 and 94, , among them former soldier, a quantum physicist and a travelling musician, died in temporary housing and hospitals in 2017.
The BIJ, which based its investigation on accounts from local journalists, coroners’ reports, soup kitchens and families, said causes for the homeless people’s deaths ranged from drug overdoses to starvation. It added that the true number of deaths was “likely to be much higher”.
Homelessness has increased in Britain since 2010 when impacts of government’s austerity measures began to be felt in the British society. Some 236,000 people are currently sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation across the UK, according estimates by charity Crisis.
Head of Crisis Jon Sparkes said the new data released by BIJ was shocking, saying the study showed that homelessness had become a “national emergency” in the UK.
“To think of just one person dying due to the consequences of poverty and homelessness is appalling, but to learn of the sheer scale of those who’ve lost their lives in the past year is nothing short of horrifying,” said Sparkes.
A decline in house-building and rising property prices has caused many to lose access to proper accommodation in Britain. The government denies its policies are to blame for the surge in homelessness while it generally refuses to disclose information on the deaths of homeless people.
Under increasing public pressure, the Office for National Statistics announced last year that it was collecting experimental data on homelessness for release in 2018. Other government agencies also came out and said they have plans in place to eradicate rough sleeping in Britain by 2027.