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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Official figures on homelessness deaths to be released for first time

Official figures on the number of deaths among homeless people are to be released for the first time – just days after a homeless man was found dying outside the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to publish the statistics on homelessness deaths in England and Wales this morning.

It comes after a homeless man, known as Gyula Remes, was found collapsed at Westminster Underground station at about 11pm on 18th December. He died in hospital in the early hours of the following day.

MPs were told about the death by Labour frontbencher Sir Keir Starmer, who said: “I’m given to understand that tragically one of those sleeping just outside the entrance and exit to this place died in the last 24 hours or so.”

According to his friend Gabor Kasza, 22, Mr Remes had been drinking that night and had been given a cigarette, which he suspected had been laced with the synthetic drug spice.

Mr Kasza said the 43-year-old had recently begun work as a chef’s assistant and was well known among the homeless community at Westminster station.

In October, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found at least 449 people had died homeless in the UK in the last year.

Among the dead were a former soldier, a physicist, a travelling musician, a Big Issue seller and a community volunteer.

Three men’s bodies were so badly decomposed by the time they were were discovered they needed forensic testing to identify them.

Causes of death included assault, drug overdoses, illness, suicide and at least one body showed signs of prolonged starvation.

The investigation prompted the ONS to begin work on official figures for homelessness deaths.

It said the figures would improve understanding of how and why homeless people die.

Ben Humberstone, ONS deputy director for health analysis and life events, said at the time: “Information gathered by outside organisations like these is not used for our official statistics, but it helps us develop the most accurate method of identifying all the deaths that should be counted.

“Although this is a new area of data collection, we have a responsibility to ensure it meets the same high standards of quality, accuracy, confidentiality and security as the rest of our work.”

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said investigations into Mr Remes’s death were ongoing.

“I am clear that one death on our streets is one too many and it is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short this way,” he said.

He added the Government was investing £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness and planned to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.

He said: “I am also committed to ensuring independent reviews into the deaths of rough sleepers are conducted, where appropriate, so that important lessons are learned. It is vital that we have as much detailed information as possible so we can target support in the right way.

“I will be asking Westminster City Council to refer this to their Safeguarding Adults Board to look into the case.”

Picture: File photo dated 07/02/17 of a person sleeping rough in a doorway. (Yui Mok/PA).