MORE than 50 homeless people have died over the past three years with a leading doctor warning a “perfect storm” of cuts and rising living costs could see more deaths.

Dr Tim Worthley, who works from the Brighton Homeless Healthcare centre in Morley Street, told The Argus his own practice alone has 1,400 homeless people in the city on its register.

He said 21 of his patients died in 2015 – and that all the deaths were preventable.

Dr Tim, as his patients call him, said: “It’s a tragedy really that we have people dying on our streets.

“Unseen people, slipping away.

“It’s looking like homelessness is only going to get worse over the next few years and because of that, due to cuts, there will be more deaths too.

“It’s the perfect storm and there’s this horrible sense of inevitability about it all.”

He said homelessness does not necessarily mean rough sleeping, with some people squatting or in hostels.

Dr Tim added: “I would argue that all the deaths were preventable. They all die before their time. It’s desperately sad.”

His figures also include 15 deaths in 2013 and 15 in 2014. A cardboard notice at the Clock Tower in North Street, Brighton, highlights the deaths, forming part of a memorial to at least three known homeless people who died over Christmas.

The average age of mortality for someone on the streets is 47 and the causes range from drink and drug overdoses through to death from hypothermia and suicide.

Dr Tim said that nationally homelessness has increased by a third since 2010 when the coalition government came to power and cuts began to bite.

In Brighton and Hove the number of rough sleepers has gone up by about 100 since 2010, when the figure was about 50.

The Argus reported on January 9 that Lesley “Gareth” Raymond, who used to sell the Big Issue outside Waitrose in Western Road, had died on New Year’s Day. His funeral was last Friday (Jan 22).

Days earlier a woman called Caroline, who lived outside the same shop, also passed away.

Their deaths were followed by that of Casey (sometimes spelt Kacey), a man often seen in a Despicable Me onesie, who died on January 3.

On January 20, The Argus reported that Brighton Housing Trust warned of a “homeless timebomb” with hundreds more facing life on the streets.

Dr Tim said many of his patients had suffered childhood trauma which then manifested itself in alcohol or drug addiction.

Brighton and Hove City Council has said everyone has a responsibility to end homelessness and works with various charities to help those affected.


FOR the homeless of Brighton and Hove, Dr Tim Worthley is not just the man with the stethoscope who tends to them but also an informal counsellor.

“We do a lot of listening,” he said, “I get really close to them.”

This makes it that bit harder for him to accept that last year, of the 1,400 homeless people on his books, 21 died. Over the two previous years the figure was 30.

Dr Tim, as some of his patients call him, said: “Every time I see someone in my surgery I don’t know if that will be the last time I will see them or not.

“When they die there’s the sense of personal loss, losing someone you are close to, and then there’s the wider loss because you feel you have let them down as part of the system.

“There’s also the frustration of seeing people get less well and die when something could be done to prevent that.

“They are all preventable deaths. They all die before their time. It’s desperately sad.”

The causes vary from drink or drug problems through to hypothermia and suicide.

Dr Tim said people encountering hard times and becoming homeless represent the minority and that for many there is an aspect of childhood trauma which then becomes a downwards spiral of drug and alcohol abuse in a bid to cope.

He said it was becoming more of a problem with austerity and the safety net “becoming more porous”.

The 37-year-old said: “The majority of them haven’t had the social safety net – the family, friends and coping strategies – that many of us take for granted.

“Having a traumatic childhood does not mean you will end up with drug addiction or being homeless.  “However, there are very few people with a drug problem who did not have a traumatic childhood.

“The majority of my patients have been failed by the system really from their childhood onwards.  “It’s easy to forget that you are generally looking at a child who has been abandoned or abused.”

Not all of his homeless patients are sleeping rough. Others are squatting, some are sofa-surfing and some are in council-run hostels or emergency accommodation.

Dr Tim said: “Rough sleeping isn’t even the worst of it.  “I have known people leave who were in emergency accommodation to leave and go back on to the streets because they prefer it.

“These places might not have heating, lighting, bedding or a lock on the door. There could be needles on the floor, and blood. You might have someone kicking down the door wanting drugs.

“And if you decide to go back on to the streets you are classed as ‘intentionally homeless’ because you don’t want to stay there.

“I have patients who used to lay awake their whole childhood dreading that banging on their door so if you can imagine what that’s like. Then [because they leave] they are intentionally homeless.

“On the streets, there’s a huge amount of unreported violence and also sexual violence, both towards men and women. It must be constantly frightening.”

Brighton and Hove City Council runs hostels which have certain specifications. A spokesman said all of them have heating, lighting and bedding if needed as well as a working lock on the door, and that they are cleaned before being re-let.

Emergency accommodation is managed by private companies procured through a tendering process. The council said the contracts are closely monitored and that It also said “intentional homelessness” is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Dr Tim, who lives in Lancing, moved to Brighton and Hove in 2002 to work at the Royal Sussex County Hospital and the Mill View psychiatric hospital in Hove before he started working with the homeless in 2009.

With an interest in psychiatry, he recognises mental health problems in people.

Dr Tim said homeless people can find it difficult to keep appointments because of not having a fixed address or having to sell their phone, if it doesn’t end up lost or stolen. If they can’t make the appointment it’s one strike and you’re out. “There’s no slack in the system,” he added.

Dr Tim said: “There’s this treadmill of maximum efficiency, which I understand, but there are other people who do not fit this system and they fall by the wayside.”

So what can be done?

Dr Tim said: “We turn people away from our surgery on an almost daily basis because there aren’t enough of us to help them.

“What’s needed is a cohesive integrated management of homelessness in a society which has run out of money. There have been some really encouraging initiatives over the past few years looking after homeless people’s health but what we are fighting against is the growing number of homelessness. There will always be a drift of homeless people towards better services so we will be a bit of a magnet.

“But the answer is not who can have a race to the bottom to provide the least services. Instead, the onus should be on every clinical commissioning group to provide homeless healthcare and on every council to work with these providers and other third sector organisations.

“And that’s not criticising anyone. We have wonderful receptionists, nurses and doctors.

“We are the human face of an inhuman system.”


OF the 21 deaths Dr Tim Worthley knew about last year, five of those were suicides.

One man walked into the sea while another, in March last year, jumped off the pier.

He was 39-year-old George Barnett – known as an artist who made remarkable pebble sculptures on Brighton beach.

In online posts he expressed anger and frustration at his difficulties, especially when he contracted Hepatitis C.

He admitted battling drug and alcohol addictions – expressing delight and happiness when he had stayed sober but voicing disappointment at homeless charities he had come into contact with.

Dr Tim said that in two more cases homeless people have hanged themselves. It is understood the fifth case is yet to be fully determined.

Of the other 16, where names are known, the causes are not clear, though they are thought to involve health problems brought on by drink or drugs.

Lesley “Gareth” Raymond was the Big Issue seller known to many who frequented Waitrose in Western Road, Hove.

He died on New Year’s Day after years on the street suffering a long-term illness.

Another homeless person, named as Caroline, also lived near Waitrose.  She went into hospital according to a friend of hers and died overnight.