Published: 18:01, 28 February 2019
| Updated: 18:16, 28 February 2019
Canterbury had the fifth highest rate of homeless deaths in the country in 2017, according to newly-published figures.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data identifies seven homeless people died within the city council’s boundaries – covering Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay – throughout the year.
This equates to a rate of 6.8 deaths per 100,000 of the total population, compared to a national average of 1.4, and is lower than only Blackburn with Darwen, Oxford, Camden and Barrow-in-Furness.
The statistics include rough sleepers, as well as those living in emergency accommodation or hostels.
A Canterbury City Council spokesman said: “Every death on our streets is one too many and it is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short in this way.
“When we are aware of a rough sleeper death, we encourage independent reviews by Kent County Council’s adult safeguarding board.
“Rough sleeping is a highly complex issue and there are many reasons why people end up sleeping on the streets.
"The circumstances will be different for each individual in this situation.
“There are, though, inherent risks that come with this, and tragically these can cause the death of some rough sleepers, either while they are on the street, or in emergency accommodation such as a shelter or a hostel.
“Sometimes, people who find themselves in this position have additional needs in the form of drug and alcohol dependencies or mental health problems.
“The statistics published by the ONS highlighted that nationally, some 835 people died from either accidental or intentional drug overdoses.
"This is nearly a third of the total number of deaths recorded.
“Providing better access to health services and treatment is absolutely key to addressing this issue, and we are working closely with health organisations to try and achieve this.”
The data states 16 homeless people have died in the district between 2013 and 2017, with Canterbury’s combined five-year rate of 3.2 deaths per 100,000 above the national average of 1.3.
The council says the number of rough sleepers in the district has fallen from 73 to 26 between November 2017 and January 2019, with central government providing £500,000 of funding for varying projects.
It also wants to “identify more one-bedroom accommodation so we can get people off the street long-term and resettle people placed in emergency accommodation”.
Charity Porchlight described the figures as a “national scandal”, and has called for the government to take “urgent action”.
More by this authorDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter