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'Heartbreaking' extent of homeless deaths in Redbridge is revealed

PUBLISHED: 12:18 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:18 07 October 2019

A huge increase in drugs fatalities has contributed to the biggest rise in deaths of homeless people in England and Wales since records began. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Images

A huge increase in drugs fatalities has contributed to the biggest rise in deaths of homeless people in England and Wales since records began. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

More than a dozen homeless people have died in Redbridge over the past six years, official estimates show.

Homelessness charity Crisis said that the scale of the reported situation across England and Wales, where more than 700 people died last year, showed "lessons from these tragic deaths go unlearnt".

Office of National Statistics figures show that an estimated 15 homeless people died in Redbridge between 2013 and 2018.

There were seven deaths in the area last year, up from two in 2013.

The ONS counted anyone with no fixed abode at the time of their death, including rough sleepers and people living in night shelters or homeless hostels.

In Redbridge, the mortality rate for homeless people is 30.3 deaths per million population - significantly higher than across England and Wales, where the rate is 16.7.

Ilford Salvation Army Captain, John Clifton, said: "The estimated figures of the number of deaths do, sadly, reflect what we know of the number of people that have died.

"This has been a big motivation for the Salvation Army and our team of volunteers to keep the night shelter open for the whole year while we wait for the completion of Project Malachi.

"I know that this work has saved lives this year.

"However, Project Malachi and the night shelter are not the full solution. This requires more action at every political level.

"Locally, we need the council to take a more proactive role in coordinating work between partners.

"At a GLA level, we need support for a Project Malachi in every borough, and more funding to be put into Housing First.

"At a national level, we need an intensive program to build social housing, and a reversal of cuts to mental health and addiction services across the country.

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"Homelessness is a political choice. Its increase is not an accident. It is the product of particular conditions that we have all created. These conditions can be reversed if we decide to make that happen."

Across England and Wales, 726 homeless people died in 2018 - up 22per cent from the previous year, and 51pc more than in 2013.

This was the biggest annual rise in homeless deaths since records began, driven by a huge increase in drugs fatalities.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: "It is heartbreaking that hundreds of people were forced to spend the last days of their lives without the dignity of a secure home.

"This is now the second year running where we have known the true scale of the human cost of homelessness, yet still the lessons from these tragic deaths go unlearnt."

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "It's heart breaking that in this day and age, lives are lost to rough sleeping. That's why we're doing everything we can to break the cycle of street homelessness and prevent needless suffering on the streets.

"We are determined to end street homelessness in Redbridge. Our strong efforts include supporting the ground-breaking Malachi project in Ilford which will provide a pop up hostel, with fifteen of the 42 rooms for those with no recourse to public funds. This, along with our current shelter, Ryedale, means we can provide up to 60 rough sleepers with safe and secure accommodation and continue to work with them to find longer term, sustainable housing solutions.

"We're also helping residents in crisis by tripling our outreach support, investing in the Housing First service to provide more accommodation and we've appointed a dedicated officer to work closely with key partners such as local health services and charities.

"We urge residents to help us tackle homelessness by alerting us to rough sleepers through the StreetLink app or website so that we can locate them and offer support."

A government spokesman said: "Every single death on our streets is one too many and these statistics are a sombre reminder that there is still much more to do to tackle homelessness and end rough sleeping for good.

"Drugs can devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, which is why we are undertaking a comprehensive review which will help protect the most vulnerable - including homeless individuals - from the harms that drugs cause and give them a chance to recover and turn their lives around."

The government is investing £1.2billion to tackle homelessness and its causes, he added.

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