The number of homeless deaths in Watford increased in 2018, new figures have revealed.

Three homeless people were found to have died in the area compared to two in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Over the past six years, the figures revealed there had been a total of 16 homeless deaths in the area, with a mortality rate of 57.3 deaths per million population in 2018.

Homeless charity New Hope in Watford said behind the figures were people who needed compassion and support “rather than a label”.

Rob Edmonds, head of services at New Hope, said: “We are always deeply saddened when anyone with whom we have been working passes away.

“Sadly, the average age of death for individuals experiencing homelessness is shockingly low: 45 years old for men and 43 for women.

“This is why we have a vision to end rough sleeping in Watford and are doing all we can to offer comprehensive support to people who are currently sleeping rough in the town.”

He added that funding from Watford Borough Council would allow a Winter Shelter to open at the beginning of December to provide emergency shelter every night until the end of March.

Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor added: ‘It is always a tragedy when somebody passes away in situations like these. No one should have to sleep rough on our streets.

“Rough sleeping is a complex issue but we are doing all we can. Working with local homelessness charities such as New Hope we are offering support to everyone sleeping rough in our town, including emergency accommodation, meals, help with addiction and mental health problems and support in finding work.

“There are many examples where this has transformed people’s lives but it’s clear that there is still work to do. I am determined to do all I can to tackle homelessness in Watford.”

Throughout England and Wales, the figures revealed the number of estimated homeless deaths had increased from 597 in 2017 to 726 in 2018.

Most of these deaths were found to be among men, counting for 88 per cent of the total figure.

Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the Office for National Statistics, said: “The deaths of 726 homeless people in England and Wales recorded in 2018 represent an increase of over a fifth on the previous year. That’s the largest rise since these figures began in 2013

“A key driver of the change is the number of deaths related to drug poisoning which are up by 55% since 2017 compared to 16% for the population as a whole.

“The ONS estimates are designed to help inform the work of everyone seeking to protect this highly vulnerable section of our community.”