Twelve homeless people have died in Canterbury so far this year, according to charity Catching Lives.
The number for 2017 was seven — and the charity believes that the increase reflects the growth in homelessness.
Eight of the 12 were rough sleepers and the other four had recently transferred into accommodation.
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Speaking of the latter group, Catching Lives general manager Terry Gore said: “When people move off the streets they can sometimes become isolated. That’s one of the biggest gaps in service.”
Among those living on the streets who died this year was mother-of-three Shelley Pollard, 42.
Of the 12 deaths, three were caused by endocarditis — an infection of the heart valves which is often caused by bacteria which live on the surface of the body managing to penetrate through the mouth or skin.
On its website, NHS England says: “People who habitually inject illegal drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine (crystal meth) into their veins have an increased risk of developing endocarditis.
“This is because unsterilised needles allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and repeated injections make the skin more vulnerable to infection.”
Catching Lives has been told by NHS England that endocarditis is a particular problem in Kent. Most people who are diagnosed with the condition will be admitted to hospital and given a course of antibiotics. Some will have surgery.
Catching Lives is concerned at the way that some patients who are homeless are released onto the streets while they are still fragile and on the antibiotics course.
“Discharge co-ordinators have to clear beds,” says Mr Gore. He is reluctant to criticise health workers making difficult decisions but he is also very concerned at the risks that people with serious illnesses face when they have no home to go to.
Symptoms include a high temperature (of 38C), chills, night sweats, headaches, shortness of breath, cough, heart murmurs, tiredness and muscle and joint pain. Some people will also have a spotty red rash, raised lumps on their fingers and toes, and mental confusion.
The winter shelter is now running, offering 20 emergency bed spaces for homeless people each night in seven different church halls around Canterbury.