23.04.18 Homelessness

Dying Homeless: Counting the deaths of homeless people across the UK

Dying Homeless is a long-term project by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to count those that die homeless in the UK.

The number of people who are living homeless has increased sharply in the UK. While we hear tragic stories about people who have died while sleeping rough there are many other people who die in hostels or temporary accommodation and no one counts all these deaths.

We are setting out to record these deaths, tell their stories and increase transparency.

We are collaborating with local reporters, charities and grassroots groups all over the country to compile this first-of-its-kind dataset. You can see the powerful reporting from our local reporting network here.

Join the discussion: #makethemcount

If you know of a homeless person that passed away, please let us know

Report a death here

About the project

The number of people sleeping rough has risen sharply in recent years, the national figure has grown 169% since 2010.

During the bitter cold of the last, long winter, some deaths made headlines, including that of a man who died close to the Palace of Westminster.

Despite many vulnerable people being known to the authorities, local journalists and charities are often the only ones that report these deaths.

The Bureau spoke to councils, hospitals, coroners' offices, police forces and NGOs. While there is a charitable network recording information on people sleeping rough in London, we found that there is no centralised record of when and how people die homeless across the UK.

We have scoured local press reports, surveyed dozens of homelessness charities, interviewed doctors and other experts to pull together a list of known deaths. There is no obligation on councils or coroners to log these deaths. Therefore our count, sourced from publicly available information, is likely an underestimate.

We are asking those working directly with homeless people, as well as our hundreds-strong network of local journalists, to advise us when they hear of a new death.

Where possible, we will gather information from police, coroners’ inquests and family members to fill in the details of the lives, and deaths, of each person.

We use the same definition as that used by homeless charity Crisis; it defines someone as homeless if they are sleeping rough, or in emergency or temporary accommodation such as hostels and B&Bs, or sofa-surfing. In Northern Ireland, we were only able to count the deaths of people registered as officially homeless by the Housing Executive, most of whom were in temporary accommodation while they waited to be housed.

When we are passed a name by the public, we will only publish if it has been verified by local homelessness charities, the coroner’s office or other officials.

We recognise that there is often no clear-cut cause for many of these deaths, and that this is both a highly sensitive and complex issue. We commit to recording these deaths in a respectful and nuanced manner and we will redact sensitive information where necessary or requested by the family. We ask those who use our database to do the same.

On October 8, 2018 the Office for National Statistics announced it would start producing its own figure on homeless deaths.

Thanks to Nathalie Bloomer for additional reporting.

Header illustration by Andrew Garthwaite.