3 October 2019

Chief Operating Officer Lucy Abraham responded to the Times leading article, Death on the streets”, 2 October 2019, which followed the recent report from the Office of National Statistics on deaths of rough sleepers. Her response appears in today's Letters to the Editor in the Times newspaper.

The focus on addiction as the cause of death is 'misleading', Lucy wrote. 

We should be looking at the lack of affordable housing and the cuts to social services that cause people to become homeless in the first place.

Full response below:

"Much has been made of the significance of drugs in causing the deaths of rough sleepers. Yet to focus on drugs as a key-driver of homeless deaths is both misleading and distracting. Although drug and alcohol addictions can of course lead to tragic outcomes, addiction is not the root cause of these deaths.

We should be looking at the lack of affordable housing and the cuts to social services that cause people to become homeless in the first place. Nor are addiction issues as prevalent within the wider homeless population as the headlines suggest. of the 1,200 rough sleepers supported by Glass Door caseworkers last year, only 18 percent had identified drug or alcohol needs, mental and physical health needs (38 percent) played a far greater part. 

Moreover, addictions and mental health needs are often a consequence, rather than a cause, of homelessness. Where we should focus our attention is on how we tackle the root causes of homelessness, we need to remember that behind these statistics are human beings who need our compassion and support, not our quick labels."

- Lucy Abraham, Chief Operating Officer