CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Homeless person dies every month on average in Camden hostels

Calls for an inquiry into ‘deeply disturbing’ figures

06 February, 2020 — By Samantha Booth

Camden Council’s St Pancras headquarters

A HOMELESS person has died nearly every month on average in Camden Council’s contracted homeless accommodation over the past four years.

The majority of the deaths were suspected to have been from a deterioration in health linked to alcohol or drug use.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show how 49 people have died since April 2016.

In recent years Camden Council had one of the highest rough-sleeping populations in the UK and commissions 14 hostels for single people.

Jess Turtle, from the Museum of Homelessness, said: “This is deeply disturbing and upsetting to learn of so many deaths in hostel settings in Camden. We understand the pressure that funding cuts have brought to the frontline, but we are alarmed at the upward trend in deaths in the last two years.”

She added: “We must ensure people are safe and not put at further risk when they come off the streets and the commissioning body must take its duty of care seriously.”

Other suspected causes of death include suicide, possible drug overdoses and heart attacks.

Jon Glackin, from celebrated food handout project Streets Kitchen, called the findings “heartbreaking” and has called for a public inquiry into the deaths.

Jon Glackin

He said: “I totally understand that homelessness has a severe impact on life expectancy but lessons must be learned here.

An urgent public inquiry is required by Camden Council with immediate actions to address this intolerable situation. We must remedy this.”

An inquest into the death of a 38-year-old man last year highlighted the difficulties of some living in hostels.

William Thomas Williams, who had been evicted from his home due to rent arrears, died from heroin toxicity, the court heard.

Staff found him lying on his bed on September 10 at the large hostel where he had lived for a month at 220 Arlington Road, the only homeless hostel run by One Housing Group.

The inquest heard he had a history of suicidal thoughts. A note found in his room written Mr Williams listed how he had a “lack of support in managing his money” when renting. He said he was “very grateful” for his first hostel placement but that the environment was “also a massive shock”.

Days before his death, he had requested a hospital bed, due to his mental health, but the inquest last week at St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard he was told there were none available at that time.

Martin D’Mello, group director of health, care and support at One Housing Group, said: “We were saddened by the death of Mr Williams and would like to extend our deepest sympathies. We work very closely with our Camden Pathway partners on referrals of individuals to the service to ensure we are supporting all the people who are on the pathway.”

A Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “The Trust provides regular substance misuse services to four hostels in Camden. These services, which were recently rated Outstanding by the CQC, are carried out by experienced specialists who understand the very complex problems faced by homeless service users.

“There has been no reduction in this service during the past few years. It is always our policy to find a bed for anyone assessed as needing one, even if that means funding one privately.”

Housing chief Councillor Meric Apak said: “This is an extremely sad case and our deepest sympathies are with all who knew Mr Williams. “As part of our serious incident reporting procedure, all Adult Pathway services in the borough are required to carry out a review, involving all of the relevant agencies, if someone passes away.

“We also make sure that all Pathway hostels, whether delivered by housing associations, voluntary organisations or the council itself, have support staff on site 24/7 to ensure that there is a safe environment for residents to rebuild their lives and to help them develop the skills to live independently.

“The council is committed to improving the lives of residents affected by homelessness. This can be seen in the new hostel accommodation at Mount Pleasant and Holmes Road that have recently been developed through our Community Investment Programme.”

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