Too Many, Too Young: Deaths while Homeless in Scotland

In November, the National Records of Scotland published the annual homeless death figures report, which estimates that 250 people died while experiencing homelessness in Scotland in 2021. This is at a similar level to 2020, but higher compared to 2017, when these statistics were first collected.

Most recorded deaths (81%) were among men. 72% of women who died were under 45, a higher proportion than men of whom 58% were under 45.

There were an estimated 127 deaths attributed to drug use among people experiencing homelessness. While this is a fall over the past year, drug use still accounts for 51% of all deaths while homeless. Suicide accounted for 9% and alcohol-specific deaths 7%. It is important to highlight there can be overlaps between suicides and drug-related deaths as a death can be counted as both.

There are 3 important points to highlight from the report that have been misreported in some places:

1. Deaths were not ‘on the streets’ but mainly in temporary accommodation. This matters because it reflects the reality of people’s experience of homelessness in Scotland, which is mostly not outdoors, but in temporary places waiting for a settled home.

2. This distinction also demonstrates where energy and resources need targeted to end homelessness in Scotland. More settled, affordable homes for people to build and live their lives. Less time waiting, with more 1:1 support for people to draw from.

3. Full focus should also be on the many missed opportunities. For those at the sharpest end, homelessness follows adversity and poor health – for some people, right back to childhood. People need rapid access to joined up services and a No Wrong Door approach.

You can read the full National Records of Scotland Report on Homeless Deaths 2021 by clicking here.