New figures revealed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism have shown that 78 homeless people died in the UK over the 2017 winter period. Deaths in Britain’s streets and in homeless shelters over winter now mean that over 300 rough sleepers have died in the country since 2013.
Earlier this month No Majesty reported the story that the official number of rough sleeper deaths in Britain had increased to 230 since 2013, after statistics showed deaths had more than doubled over the last five years.
Deaths of rough sleepers are likely to be much higher than those reported in these figures, as the deaths of rough sleepers are not collected on a national level, and local councils are not required to record the number of rough sleeper deaths.
The new figures were released as Tory MP Adam Holloway claimed on Tuesday that sleeping rough was “a lot more comfortable” than army exercises, speaking during a Westminster Hall debate. Holloway claimed he had spent a number of nights sleeping rough as part of a television programme.
Talking to parliamentary colleagues, the MP for Gravesham in Kent also said that homeless people begging for money was part of the problem, and claimed that begging allowed them to make “quite a lot of money”.
Holloway went on to claim that many people chose to sleep rough, as opposed to paying for accommodation. He was challenged on his views by the shadow housing minister Melanie Onn, who said that it was not the case across the UK that people were choosing to sleep rough. He was also challenged by the Labour MP Laura Smith on his comments that homeless people were benefiting from sleeping rough.
Rough sleeping in the UK has increased 169% since 2010, according to figures supported by a number of homeless charities. Charity group Shelter estimated in November 2017 that at least 300,000 people in Britain were homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
In November, UK chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced a government-backed ‘Homelessness reduction task force’, aimed at tackling the issue of rough sleeping in the country. Additionally, the Conservative government has pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and eliminate it altogether by 2027.
However, it was revealed in February that the newly formed group aimed at tackling the issue were yet to have held a single meeting, nearly three months after first being announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn budget. When confronted by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with this alarming revelation at Prime Minister’s Questions on February 22, Theresa May stated that a meeting had been held on the same day, though she did not comment on whether a meeting had taken place before.
Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.