23.04.18 Homelessness

Dying Homeless: Counting the deaths on UK streets

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

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, no-one counts how many homeless people die on the streets of Britain each year.

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

We are asking the public, along with homelessness charities and local reporters around the country to join us in compiling this, first-of-its-kind, dataset.

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 are using homeless charity, Crisis’ definition of homelessness as including: people sleeping rough, those registered as statutory homeless by their local authority, those who are living long term as 'hidden homeless', e.g. sofa-surfing.

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.

Thanks to Nathalie Bloomer for additional reporting.

Header illustration by Andrew Garthwaite.