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Figures reveal extent of rough sleeper deaths in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 October 2019

ONS figures show there were 45 deaths of rough sleepers in the East End. Picture: Sam Mellish

ONS figures show there were 45 deaths of rough sleepers in the East End. Picture: Sam Mellish

Sam Mellish

Forty-five homeless people are known to have died on the borough's streets in the past six years, figures show.

Of that number, there were nine deaths in the East End in 2018 up from four in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said: "One death is one too many. We are committed to ending homelessness and deliver a range of services either directly or through commissioned agencies.

"We also work closely with a range of partners in health to improve the lives of homeless people and prevent early death."

There were an estimated 726 registered deaths of homeless people in England and Wales in 2018, the highest year-to-year increase - 22 per cent - since the ONS started its annual count.

Men made up most of the deaths, at 641 or 88pc of the national total. Nationally, two in five deaths, 294, resulted from drugs in 2018.

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A spokesman for The Salvation Army, which operates Booth House in Whitechapel Road, said: "Any death of a person is tragic and these figures highlight the impact of the appalling level of homelessness.

"Urgent action is needed before more lives are lost."

He added that cuts to local authority services designed to prevent homelessness have led to increased demands on emergency provision.

"Due to the severity of funding reductions The Salvation Army is increasingly subsidising supported housing schemes, including our addiction services to ensure vulnerable people continue to receive the help they desperately need," he said.

The government needed to invest in services to help people break the cycle of rough sleeping not just in emergency shelters, he added.

A Government spokeswoman 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.

"We are undertaking a comprehensive review which will help protect the most vulnerable - including homeless individuals - from the harms that drugs cause.

"We are investing £1.2billion to tackle all forms of homelessness and have made the most ambitious change to legislation in a decade, helping more people access support to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place."

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