More than a dozen homeless people have died in Bath and North East Somerset in less than a decade, figures suggest.
A nationwide effort to get people off the streets during the coronavirus pandemic contributed to a national drop in homeless deaths registered during 2020 – but nearly 700 people across England and Wales died without a home to call their own.
In light of the sobering statistics, housing charity Shelter called on the Government to step in and ensure nobody is left out in the cold to face the "ravages of homelessness" this winter.
Estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest three homeless deaths were registered in Bath and North East Somerset last year, while 18 people have died since records began in 2013.
The figures, which mainly include those sleeping rough or using emergency accommodation, are based on registered deaths plus an estimate of how many people died without being correctly identified as homeless.
A snapshot Government survey taken on one night between October and November 2020 found that 13 people were sleeping rough in the area at that time.
And separate figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show 398 households were identified as being homeless, or at risk of homelessness, during the first year of the pandemic.
Responding to the national figures, Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: "To think people's final days were spent homeless in the pandemic is a sobering thought.
"If it wasn’t for the Government’s Covid response to help people off the streets even more lives would have been lost.
“As we head into another hard winter with the virus still circulating, we cannot leave anyone out in the cold."
Nearly nine in 10 people who died while homeless nationally were men, while two in five lost their lives to drug poisoning and more than a dozen died with Covid-19.
Though the figure includes some deaths that happened during the previous year but were not registered until 2020 due to pandemic-inspired disruption to services, the true scale of homeless deaths could be higher than reported.
The ONS said the Government's Everyone In scheme led to homeless people being placed in accommodation such as hotels, making it more difficult to identify them in mortality records,
However, together with temporary bans on eviction, the scheme is thought to have contributed to a decrease in the homeless population nationally.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the Everyone In scheme had helped 37,000 vulnerable people and that the Government is providing more than £2 billion over the next three years to tackle homelessness.
She added: “Every death on our streets is one too many, which is why we remain committed to ending rough sleeping altogether.“