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Drugs behind surge in homeless deaths

A HUGE increase in drugs fatalities has led to the biggest rise in deaths of homeless people in England and Wales since records began.

Last year 726 homeless people died — a rise of 22 per cent in a year, Office for National Statistics figures show.

Two in five of the deaths were related to drug poisoning — 55 per cent more than in 2017 and more than double the 16 per cent figure for the population as a whole.

Ben Humberstone, of the ONS, said: ‘Most of the deaths in 2018 were men — with an estimated 641 deaths — with an average age of 45 for men and 43 for women. London had the highest number of deaths, with 20 per cent of the total, followed by the north-west, with 14 per cent.’

The ONS said deaths from drugs had more than doubled over the six years it had been recording the data.

Figures last year showed an estimated 294 drug-related deaths compared to 190 deaths in 2017. Heroin and morphine were the main killers.

Housing minister Luke Hall said the statistics were ‘heartbreaking’ and funding to fight homelessness would increase by £54million next year.

But shadow housing secretary John Healey blamed Tory policies for the ‘shameful’ figures.

Howard Sinclair, head of homelessness charity St Mungo’s, said: ‘Years of funding cuts have devastated crucial services supporting people who are homeless. The human cost is a national tragedy.’ Shelter’s Polly Neate called for more social houses to be built, adding: ‘You can’t solve homelessness without homes.’