An alarming spike in homeless deaths in east London last year has prompted a charity to call for “urgent action”.

Confirmed homeless deaths in Redbridge rose from one in 2017 to five deaths last year, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed.

But ONS estimates the number of deaths in the borough was closer to seven.

In Waltham Forest there were three identified deaths in 2018 and only a single death the year before.

Homeless charity Shelter has called for “urgent action” after total deaths across England and Wales rose 22 per cent to 726, the highest year-to-year increase since ONS records began.

In Redbridge, the mortality rate for rough sleepers was 30.3 deaths per million population – nearly double of the average across England and Wales.

Redbridge Council said it was “heart breaking” so many lives were lost to “needless suffering” and pledged to break the cycle of homelessness.

The council highlighted Project Malachi – a partnership with Ilford Salvation Army – as the flagship for its efforts to combat the issue.

Project Malachi in Clements Road, Ilford, is a set of converted shipping containers which provide 42 units of accommodation for rough sleepers.

A Redbridge Council spokesperson said: “This, along with our current shelter, Ryedale, means we can provide up to 60 rough sleepers with safe and secure accommodation and continue to work with them to find longer term, sustainable housing solutions. 

“We’re also helping residents in crisis by tripling our outreach support, investing in the Housing First service to provide more accommodation and we’ve appointed a dedicated officer to work closely with key partners such as local health services and charities.”

Shelter called for a revision of the UK’s housing system in response to the spike in deaths.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This is a moment to pause and reflect on what matters to us as a society. These tragic deaths are the consequence of a housing system that is failing too many of our fellow citizens.

“We desperately need to set a new course, and to do that we need urgent action.

“You can’t solve homelessness without homes, so we are calling on all parties to commit to building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing system.”

Cllr Louise Mitchell, Waltham Forest cabinet member for housing and homelessness prevention, acknowledged the need for better provision of accommodation.

In Waltham Forest the mortality rate for rough sleepers was 19.6 deaths per million population.

The Chapel End ward councillor championed the council’s participation in the Pan-London Rapid Response Pilot, a scheme she says will allow the council to reach rough sleepers “very quickly” and offer them accommodation.

Cllr Mitchell also praised the council’s work with St Mungos homeless charity and Streetlink, which allows members of the public to alert support services when they believe a rough sleeper is at risk.

She added: “Each and every preventable death of a rough sleeper on our streets is a tragedy. We have seen a worrying rise in homeless deaths right across the UK and we are determined to do all we can to prevent this getting any worse.

“My main message would be for residents who have any concerns about someone they think is sleeping rough: please, let us or one of our partners know so we can take action. If there is an immediate risk to their health or safety it is vital to call 999."