DEATHS among people living without a permanent roof over their heads reached 17 this year, The Argus can exclusively reveal.

One of Brighton’s homeless community passed away as recently as last week.

It comes as the average age of those members of the street community who died in the city in the last 12 months has been documented at just 46.

A leading doctor said the majority of the deaths were avoidable and cold winter conditions were escalating the issue.

The number of deaths has fallen from an equivalent figure of 21 in 2015 but the average age is still 30 years less than the life expectancy within the city.

Dr Tim Worthley is a doctor at the Arch Health CIC in Ivory Place which provides aid for homeless people.

These are classed as people without a stable home but they are not necessarily on the streets.

Many will be sofa-surfing, others will be in temporary or supportive accommodation.

He said: “This is a huge problem but why don’t we, as a city, come up with a solution for it?”

He called for groups to work together to set up a “homeless hub”.

This hub would combine health, housing and other homeless services into one building in order to ease the pressure on stretched services.

He believes this could have “a genuinely transformational effect”.

Most of the recorded deaths were in temporary or supported accommodation. Two of the victims had been placed in longer term accommodation and the others were sleeping rough.

Dr Worthley said that the number of homeless deaths has stayed relatively level over the past years but added that more people were using the services this year.

He said: “People are on the streets now who, five years ago, we wouldn’t have expected to be there.

“The work we have to do now is more intense than in previous years.

“I am also much more concerned about the national situation than I have ever been.

“There is a perfect storm of housing cuts, social care cuts, benefits cuts, hospitals and general practices hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

“I often tell medical students that I honestly don’t know when I say goodbye to a patient if I will see them again.

“I am also terrified about the impact that the introduction of Universal Credit may have in the city.

“Training has already been put in place to deal with this within the practice.

“But there is a desperate, desperate need to increase the amount of housing available, some of which is Dickensian at the moment.”

Numbers of rough sleepers have also increased within Brighton and Hove this year rising by 20 per cent from last year to a total of 178 people.

Claire Moonan, who is the city councillor in charge of rough sleeping, said: “Any premature death is tragic and this is a vulnerable group of people who have a lot of issues.

“The number in Brighton is high but the numbers are high elsewhere as well.

“There is hope but the demand is rising.”


WALKING round the streets of Brighton you see life everywhere.

The Christmas lights still beam over the busy roads and there is an excited murmur from the crowd of shoppers who are now looking for post-Christmas bargains.

But something else is also everywhere, in most corners, doorways and alcoves: homelessness.

On a quick walk round the city, there is a saddening number of possible interviewees for a story like this one.

The unhelped and unprotected line the cold streets of Brighton and they are increasing in number.

While Christmas is a time for celebration for many, sadly for these individuals it is a dangerous season where the cold conditions threaten their ability to live.

Walking up from the Old Steine, I see Myke.

He is sitting with his dog on the side of the road bracing himself from the chill that is in the air.

He has just been moved from a neighbouring doorway by the police for confusing reasons.

He says that homeless deaths happen all the time and he knows some of those who have passed away.

Myke has been on the streets for 28 years. He is now 40.

A quick sum shows that, for him, homelessness has been his life.

He has tried to get work in the past but rough sleeping is so normal now that “you can’t expect me to be able to jump into a nine to five”.

Alongside him is his dog who is now six-years-old.

For Myke, like other homeless people who I talked to, dogs seem to be both a cause of great consolation but also trouble.

He was recently refused access to a local shelter because “they won’t take more than two dogs in the shelter”.

Myke talks to me about the day to day complications of homeless life.

We rarely think of this but imagine setting up a bank account when you don’t have an address, or trying to call someone when your phone is likely to be lost, stolen or sold for a meal.

This is the reality of life for Myke and hundreds of others like him.

I thank him for his time and continue walking along the street.

On the way up to the Clock Tower I count how many rough sleepers people I pass.

I get to a full 15 by the time I reach the tower which used to house a cardboard plaque testifying to the unnamed and unpublicised dead among the homeless community.

I pass a man who is slowly strumming away at the guitar. He doesn’t want to be named but spends most of his time moving around the country.

Another person is just shocked that someone actually stopped to talk to her.

I come to JJ who is crouched over with his dog, Noodles. He has been homeless for five years after a split from his wife.

He is not surprised by my information about homeless deaths.

There is a painful acceptance when he says “it’s always bad this time of year”.

He said: “I have seen more than enough death in my time.

“The health service is not being distributed in the right order.”

I return to the same spots later that day.

Myke is no longer sitting there.

He may have left to get some food, or try to get some shelter for the night.

He may have even been moved on by the police again.

Seventeen of Dr Worthley’s patients moved on permanently this year.

Some left their concrete beds never to return.

It is a brutal truth that the same will happen to many more in the coming years as well.

People are dying because of a flawed system that forces local communities to cover for the failures of the state.

As I walk back to the station, I pass most of the people who I talked to that day.

I know that that evening, like millions of others, I am lucky enough to return to a warm home with a full fridge.

The presence of my dog does not decide whether I can get a bed for the night and I know that I am safe.

I know also that I have a spare room in my house, a room that could be filled by someone like Myke or JJ.

A room that could prevent more homeless deaths. We may not have caused this problem but we are all part of it.

The example of Dr Worthley’s passion shows that there may be hope and that homelessness is not an unsolvable problem.

But all need to consider what we can do better to stop more people dying on the streets of 21st century Britain.


A CITY council spokesperson said: “We agree with Dr Worthley that homelessness is a national issue.

“Thanks to professionals in the council and the NHS – like Dr Worthley – and to our many charities and local volunteers, Brighton and Hove provides some of the best services in the country for homeless people.

“The city’s rough sleeper outreach team works tirelessly to engage with rough sleepers in the city to try and make sure they receive the housing, health and social care support they need.

“However, they cannot force people to engage with them.

“There is an acute shortage of affordable accommodation in the city, combined with very high demand.

“Through our New Homes for Neighbourhoods scheme we are building more than 500 new affordable homes, and we have recently signed an agreement with Hyde Housing to build another 1,000.

“In instances where homeless people do not have a local connection we work to reconnect them to other places in the country where they are most likely to be able to access the housing, health and social care support they need.”