A HOMELESSNESS charity has called for ‘a moment to pause and reflect on what matters to us as a society’ as figures reveal the true extent of homeless deaths in the region.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics shows that there were an estimated 726 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales registered in 2018, the highest year-to-year increase (22 per cent) since our time series began.

Data shows that 27 of these estimated deaths occurred in counties across the North Wales region from 2013 to 2018.

The ONS counted anyone with no fixed abode at the time of their death, including rough sleepers and people living in night shelters or homeless hostels.

The charity Shelter, that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing, responded to the most recent batch of statistics that show that the number of estimated deaths across the two countries have increased by 51 per cent over the last five years.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This is a moment to pause and reflect on what matters to us as a society. These tragic deaths are the consequence of a housing system that is failing too many of our fellow citizens.

“We desperately need to set a new course, and to do that we need urgent action. You can’t solve homelessness without homes, so we are calling on all parties to commit to building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing system.”

Official numbers show, in the most recent batch of statistics covering 2018, that there was a total of seven deaths estimated across the region – with three in Anglesey, three in Wrexham and one in Flintshire.

Cllr David Griffiths, lead member for housing at Wrexham Council, said: “We are, of course, sad to see even a single death of a homeless person in the county borough. Although we did see a reduction in our recent rough sleeper count when compared to last year’s count, we believe even one person sleeping rough is one too many, and we are hard at work on a number of measures in order to reduce the number of rough sleepers and support them into the services they need, so that sad figures such as these might be avoided.

“This includes new modular housing off Holt Road to provide short-term tenancies for rough sleepers looking to get into accommodation, and working alongside volunteers with Housing Justice Cymru to provide sleeping spaces at churches in Wrexham.

“We are also working alongside all five other North Wales authorities as part of a regional approach to tackling homelessness in North Wales, looking at many of the root causes and broader trends underlying homelessness and rough sleeping, which – although not limited to Wrexham alone – would certainly affect the number of rough sleepers in Wrexham. We are conscious that this is a nationwide issue across Wales and the UK more broadly, and cannot work on this issue in isolation. We have worked, and will continue to work, with any and all partners to help tackle this issue.”

Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the Office of National Statistics (ONS), said: “The deaths of 726 homeless people in England and Wales recorded in 2018 represent an increase of over a fifth on the previous year. That’s the largest rise since these figures began in 2013.

“A key driver of the change is the number of deaths related to drug poisoning which are up by 55 per cent since 2017 compared to 16 per cent for the population as a whole. The ONS estimates are designed to help inform the work of everyone seeking to protect this highly vulnerable section of our community.”