Data shows scale of homeless deaths across east London in 2020

A homeless man sleeping in the doorway of closed down branch of the Leeds Building Society on Kingsw

A homeless man sleeping in the doorway of a closed-down bank branch in London. - Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

The number of homeless people who died in east London last year has been revealed in Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

In four east London boroughs – Havering, Newham, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham – the number of identified and estimated deaths of homeless people was higher in 2020 than the average for the previous five years. 

Newham saw the highest number of estimated deaths of homeless people in 2020, with 11; this is notably higher than the average number over the previous half decade, which is 6.2. 

Three homeless people are estimated to have died in Havering last year, one more than the five-year average. 

The same number are estimated to have died in Barking and Dagenham, although this was three times the average for the previous five years in that borough. 

Redbridge saw an estimated four deaths of homeless people over the 12 months, one more than the five-year average. 

Tower Hamlets was an exception in east London in 2020 because deaths of homeless people declined on previous years. 

Most Read

There were an estimated 10 deaths in the borough last year, compared with an average 10.6 in the previous five years. 

Across England and Wales, an estimated 688 homeless people died in 2020, a decrease of 11.6 per cent on 2019.  

While this was the first fall in numbers since 2014, the ONS said the decline was not statistically significant and the numbers remain 42.7 per cent higher than in 2013. 

The ONS said the government's Everyone In scheme made it difficult to identify homeless people in mortality records, meaning figures for 2020 may underestimate the true number of homeless deaths. 

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said it was a "sobering thought" that so many had spent their final days homeless in the pandemic.

She said: "If it wasn’t for the government’s Covid response to help people off the streets, even more lives would have been lost.

“As we head into another hard winter with the virus still circulating, we cannot leave anyone out in the cold."

She said Shelter was already being approached by people who had been turned away by councils and urged the government to step in to keep people safe from "the ravages of homelessness this winter".

The statistics are based on the year in which the death was registered, and registration delays mean around half of deaths recorded occurred in previous years. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter