Edinburgh has worst rate of deaths among homeless people in Scotland, new official figures show

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58 homeless people died in Edinburgh last year – a 164 per cent increase over five years

An estimated 58 homeless people died in Edinburgh last year, according to new official figures – the worst rate per head of population in Scotland.

Shelter Scotland called the statistics “a source of deep collective shame” and a Lothian MSP described them as “heartbreaking”. They come just weeks after Edinburgh declared a housing emergency because of the Capital’s growing number of homeless people, shortage of accommodation and soaring rents.

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The statistics from National Records of Scotland (NRS) show an estimated total of 244 people died while homeless in Scotland in 2022, slightly down from the 2021 total of 250, but representing an increase of almost 50 per cent on the 2017 figure of 164 deaths.

Edinburgh's estimated number of deaths among homeless people has soared from 22 in 2017 to 58 in 2022.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.Edinburgh's estimated number of deaths among homeless people has soared from 22 in 2017 to 58 in 2022.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Edinburgh's estimated number of deaths among homeless people has soared from 22 in 2017 to 58 in 2022. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Edinburgh’s figures have increased even more dramatically. The number of estimated deaths in the city doubled from 22 in 2017 to 44 in 2021 before reaching 58 in 2022 – an increase of 164 per cent over five years.

Shelter Scotland Director, Alison Watson, said: “These figures are another brutal reminder of the truly tragic reality of Edinburgh’s housing emergency. It should be a source of deep collective shame that anyone in Scotland should lose their lives with nowhere safe and secure to call home.

“By declaring a housing emergency recently, the city council acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and committed to taking action to fix a broken system. Today’s news starkly demonstrates why action is so urgently needed.”

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And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “These statistics are heartbreaking. Not having a safe affordable home to live in adds huge pressures to people’s lives, but the fact that 58 people died last year who’ve been homeless is appalling. Edinburgh has a housing emergency and we need more investment now not just to prevent homelessness but to provide the homes people urgently need that are safe, secure, affordable and accessible.”

The NRS Homeless Deaths 2022 report shows that although the total figure for Scotland was similar to 2021, the number of deaths attributed to drug misuse among those experiencing homelessness fell from 127 to 89. Almost half of the people who died while homeless in Scotland in 2022 were under 45 years old. Drug-misuse accounted for 36 per cent of all deaths among people experiencing homelessness. Half of all deaths were classed as "external causes" which include most drug misuse deaths, accidents, suicide and assault.

Almost three quarters of those who died were male. The number of deaths among females returned to levels seen in previous years after a drop between 2020 and 2021.

Beth Watson, senior assistant statistician, said: “Our estimate shows a small drop in the number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness between 2021 and 2022 but this change is not statistically significant. Our figures go back to 2017 when there were 164 deaths. While the year on year change is small, the number is still significantly higher than it was five years ago.”

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The NRS said homelessness services run by local authorities provide temporary accommodation for those without a settled home and the “Homeless Deaths” figures cover this much larger group as well as the minority who were sleeping rough.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “In Edinburgh identified homeless deaths in 2022 were three times higher than they were five years ago and have been growing year-on-year. The homelessness situation is out of control and homeless people of Edinburgh are dying long before their time.

“The growing number of homeless deaths in the capital reinforces why Edinburgh Council declared a housing emergency at the start of this month. It is high time this SNP-Green government allocates the appropriate resources to stop our homelessness crisis.”