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Government scheme failed to prevent ‘staggering increase’ in homeless deaths last year, figures reveal

by Bethany Rielly

THE government’s Everyone In scheme failed to prevent a “staggering increase” in homeless deaths last year, campaigners said today, after figures revealed the death toll jumped by more than a third in 2020. 

Campaign group Museum of Homelessness (MoH) recorded 976 deaths among homeless people across Britain last year, a 37 per cent increase on 2019. 

The high rates come despite the government’s Everyone In scheme whereby thousands of rough sleepers were put up in repurposed hotels during the first wave of the pandemic.

MoH said that that while the scheme succeeded in preventing deaths from Covid-19 — less than 3 per cent caused by the virus — the effort had failed to compensate for years of funding cuts to mental-health, addiction and housing services. 

Many local councils were not able to move people from hotels to long-term accommodation when the emergency programme ended.

Its research, which involved more than 300 Freedom of Information requests, showed that 36 per cent of deaths were related to drugs and alcohol, while 15 per cent died from suicide.

MoH co-founder Jess Turtle said: “The government touts Everyone In as a runaway success. But it didn’t stop a staggering increase in the number of people dying while homeless, despite the best efforts of our colleagues around the country, who worked 24 hours a day on emergency response.”

Ms Turtle said that the findings demonstrate how the pandemic has exacerbated problems caused by 10 years of austerity.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that the government is providing £700 million this year and £750m in 2022 “to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, including delivering 3,300 long-term homes this year.”

But campaigners claim that this £700m package includes just £109m of new funds, adding that spending is far lower than levels seen in 2010, when there were half as many homeless people. 

The Museum of Homelessness said that its research shows the need for a “significant increase” in government support for long-term investment in council housing. 

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said that ending the housing crisis “must be a priority.” 

“Now is the time to challenge the status quo and actually build the social homes we need to give everyone the security of a safe home,” she said. 

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