Birmingham MP calls for permanent memorial to the region’s homeless dead
Birmingham MP Liam Byrne read out the name of every homeless person to have died in the West Midlands to a hushed House of Commons.
The MP listed 22 deaths known to have occurred since the end of 2017, based on research by BirminghamLive and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Dying Homeless project.
His poignant intervention aimed to highlight the human impact of the homeless crisis that’s blighting the region.
The Labour MP is now calling for a permanent memorial to the area’s homeless dead as a symbol of society’s collective failure to support them.
The names included Kane Walker, who died in January at the age of 31 in a freezing city centre underpass.
Speaking after his Commons speech, Mr Byrne said: “Someone dies homeless in our region every two weeks. That’s why I insisted the House of Commons hear, know and remember the names of those we’ve lost in the last 15 months alone.
“This shame must never be forgotten. And this moral emergency must end.”
His comments come after we revealed how new research says many homeless deaths are preventable, given the right medical care and living conditions.
Researchers at University College London looked into 600 recent deaths of homeless people around the country and found that just over a third were the result of preventable illnesses, including tuberculosis, pneumonia and gastric ulcers, or from mental health distress resulting in suicide.
They also found that someone homeless was twice as likely to die from a stroke or heart disease than “the most economically disadvantaged” people living in housing.
The research also concluded the average age of death for someone homeless was 49 for men, 54 for women.
The findings were declared ‘an immediate call to action’ by campaigning Birmingham MP Liam Byrne.
“This groundbreaking research is, frankly, an immediate call to action,” he said.
Mr Byrne has lobbied for more to be done to address the underlying causes of homelessness and to investigate homeless deaths.
He is working with the city council’s housing and homeless lead Coun Sharon Thompson to coordinate a homelessness awareness week in June.
He is also pressing for every homeless death to be subject to a Safeguarding Adults Review – a formal inquiry to try to establish if any lessons can be learned from a death.