In the last five years, the number of homeless people dying in the U.K. has more than doubled, a Guardian investigation revealed Wednesday.
The grim statistics found that nearly 31 homeless people died in 2013 compared to 70 in 2017, with at least 230 people dying over that period, in areas like supermarket car parks, church graveyards and crowded hostels.
Experts have blamed the rise in rents, welfare cuts and lack of social housing for this staggering surge in the number of deaths.
The sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow brought by Siberian air early in 2018 have also contributed to the deaths of the homeless in 2017 and now, as at least 23 homeless deaths on the streets and in temporary accommodation were reported by the local media so far this year, Guardian noted.
"These figures are a devastating reminder that rough sleeping is beyond dangerous – it’s deadly, and it’s claiming more and more lives each year," Matthew Downie, of the homeless charity Crisis, told the Guardian.
"Those sleeping on our streets are exposed to everything from sub-zero temperatures to violence and abuse, and fatal illnesses. They are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, twice as likely to die from infections, and nine times more likely to commit suicide. What’s worse, we know these figures are likely to be an underestimate."
The average lifespan of a homeless person is 43, almost half the average U.K. life expectancy. And around 90 percent of those who died in the last five years were men, when the gender was provided.
Petra Salva, the director of homeless sleeper services at St Mungo’ told the Guardian "Investigating deaths will help identify issues around care and where more help is needed to move people off the street and out of danger."
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, also responded to the numbers revealed by the Guardian. "Every death of someone sleeping rough on our streets is one too many. We are taking bold action and have committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
"We are investing £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness and earlier this week the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislation in this area in decades, came into force," a government spokesperson said in a statement.