More homeless people died in Northampton in one year than anywhere else in the region, report finds
More than half a dozen homeless people lost their lives in Northampton during a calendar year, official figures have revealed, marking the town out as the worst in the region for such deaths.
Seven people in unstable accommodation died in the borough in 2017 according to estimated figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in its latest report on homeless mortality.
It means that - again - Northampton has shown to be an unenviable outlier among the 27 East Midlands districts and boroughs when it comes to homelessness.
The cities of Derby and Leicester saw five estimated deaths in 2017, while Nottingham, the most populous urban area in the region, saw just one.
Only Birmingham and Coventry had a higher number of deaths in the whole of the Midlands.
"I think the figures show there is something failing somewhere," said Stan Robertson whose Project 16:15 hands out breakfasts to rough sleepers in the town centre.
"Even one death would show a failing - but seven in a year shows an enormous failing."
Northampton had a higher rate of deaths per population in 2017 than Birmingham, Nottingham, or Leicester.
Though the Government says the statistics are likely to be a 'conservative estimate'.
Councillor Stephen Hibbert, Cabinet member for housing said: “The death of anyone who is homeless or sleeping rough is tragic, but we do know that those identified in this report include people who had been helped into accommodation and were therefore not sleeping rough.
“We cannot comment on individual cases, but to our knowledge, some of the people who died while in temporary accommodation passed away as a result of an existing serious health condition.
“We run the Nightshelter, which aims to help rough sleepers get back on their feet, and currently offer a winter shelter seven nights a week, which is available until the end of March, meaning that there is no need for anyone to sleep rough in this town.”
A separate study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism Local, for example, recorded 14 homeless deaths in Northampton during 2018 - albeit a different year to the ONS figures.
The official government figures were released on Monday - on the same day Northampton Borough Council pledged to divert £1 million towards tackling rough sleeping and unstable accommodation.
However, councillors also voted down a motion to spend a further £350,000 of capital on temporary accommodation, which the proposing Liberal Democrats said would provide 10 families 40 weeks in a settled lodging.
Lib Dem leader Sally Beardsworth said: “This is a small thing to ask for. It’s chicken feed in terms of a £30 million budget.
But cabinet member for finance at the borough, Councillor Brandon Eldred, said that partners such as the Hope Centre already offered services for homeless people.
And Conservative council leader Jonathan Nunn said: “This is a sensible amendment, but we cannot support it. We are re-organising the homelessness team and investing in tackling homelessness. This doesn't require an extra £350k from reserves to achieve the same aim."
Last year, the council had to use £1.5 million from its reserves to tackle the growing homelessness crisis, and for temporary accommodation. This year it's investing an extra £1 million its budget to continue tackling it.
Labour leader, Councillor Danielle Stone said: "It's intolerable to see people shivering in doorways. We need to do something more urgent than the current policies are allowing us."