Homeless man dies in freezing alleyway behind Hilton hotel amid wave of rough sleeper deaths across UK

'The systems set up to enhance health and well-being of people experiencing homelessness are broken, and in its worst consequence this is leading to the deaths of the marginalised and vulnerable individuals in our society'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 20 November 2019 16:35
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Homeless man dies in freezing alleyway behind Hilton hotel amid wave of rough sleeper deaths across UK

A homeless man has died in an alleyway beneath a hotel after spending the night in sub-zero temperatures, marking the latest in a string of rough sleeper deaths across Britain as the cold weather draws in.

The man, who remains unidentified, was discovered on Tuesday morning in an next to a Hilton hotel in Nottingham city centre, and later pronounced dead in hospital. Police said there was nothing suspicious about the death.

His death draws a focus on the devastating consequences of the UK's spiralling homelessness figures, which show rough sleeping has surged by 165 per cent in the past eight years, hitting 4,677 last year. Alarmingly, experts say this data underestimates the scale of the problem.

Separately, a data analysis by the Museum for Homelessness earlier this year revealed a homeless person dies on average every 19 hours in the UK, prompting renewed calls for the government to address the “sheer lack” of affordable social housing across the country.

Local newspapers have reported a multitude of homeless deaths across the country in the past fortnight alone.

In one case, a pub landlord in Bury helped conduct CPR on a homeless man last Friday, but said he had since suffered “a medical episode” and died in hospital, according to Bury Times.

In another, a man believed to be in his 50s was found dead in a small park in Camden last Monday morning, as reported by Camden New Journal, while a 43-year-old homeless man was found dead inside a Glasgow car park on Sunday evening, according to Glasgow Live.

It comes as new government figures reveal a stark drop in affordable homes being built in the UK, with the proportion of new houses that are affordable dropping from 78 per cent in 2014-15 to just 66 per cent in 2018-19.

Matthew Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs described the recent deaths as "tragic and avoidable", and urged politicians to address the lack of social housing and benefits not covering the true cost of rent, which he said were forcing people onto the streets in the first place.

"Only strong commitment from the incoming government to tackle these underlying causes will ensure more individuals are not forced to rely on these emergency shelters in the future," he added.

Concern is also mounting about shortcomings in the support offered to homeless people by councils, with separate research by the Museum of Homelessness showing that most local authorities do not respond to requests for help.

The study involved contacting local authorities across the UK and posing as a homeless person asking how they could access basic living provisions.

It revealed that just 9 per cent of councils provided answers to questions such as “where can I find shelter from when it is raining or snowing?” or “where can I sleep during the night that is safe?”.

This is despite the fact that, with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, councils are now legally bound by new duties in relation to homeless people.

Anthony Luvera, who carried out the research, said. “The range of responses to these questions from across the country is, quite frankly, alarming to me. Most of the replies were automated emails signposting the reader towards websites and other general resources.

“Rarely did the sender acknowledge or engage with the queries in a direct or practical way. This in itself seemed to say as much about the state of the nation’s legislated homeless support sector as the information it made available.”

Mr Luvera descirbed the rise in deaths of homeless people in the UK as “a horrifying effect of the state of the nation's legislated homelessness support provision.

“The systems set up to enhance health and well-being of people experiencing homelessness are broken, and in its worst consequence this is leading to the deaths of the marginalised and vulnerable individuals in our society."

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