UCL Population Health Sciences


UCL researchers partner with NHS England, Public Health England, the GLA and government

We drafted a national plan with partners to help prevent more than 20,000 COVID-19 infections among homeless people.

Homeless People Brave The Cold Weather

15 September 2022

Homeless people sadly die younger than the general population.

Research carried out by Professor Andrew Hayward and Dr Al Story at the UCL Collaborative Centre for Inclusion Health (CCIH) has shown that this group is eight to 12 times more likely to die prematurely. Homeless people are at particular risk from chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

This inequality became even more stark during the pandemic, when evidence showed that death rates were much higher among COVID-19 patients with these underlying chronic diseases.

Drawing on existing data, CCIH modelling exposed how vulnerable homeless people were to COVID-19, because of underlying disease but also their high risk of catching respiratory infections from shared sleeping spaces.

CCIH researchers worked in partnership with NHS England, Public Health England, the Greater London Authority and government to draft a national plan for dealing with the impending crisis.

This strongly recommended closing night shelters, providing safe single-room, ensuite accommodation and prioritising the clinically vulnerable for specialist health and care support.

The plan was incorporated into the ‘Everyone In’ campaign, the UK’s national response to supporting the homeless during lockdown, and the largest single homelessness and rough sleeping initiative ever implemented in the UK. By mid-April 2020, 5,400 people (90% of those sleeping rough at the time) had been offered emergency accommodation, and by the end of November 2020 this figure had reached 33,139 people.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the UK recorded only 16 COVID-19 deaths among homeless people, and a UCL model estimates that this work prevented 20,000 infections and 266 deaths.

Read the full story on the UCL Research Impact website