IMPROVED partnerships are being utilised to support rough sleepers in Winchester as official estimates show over the past six years more than a dozen people have died in the district.

Official of National Statistics figures show than an estimated 15 homeless people died in Winchester between 2013 and 2018, with one death in the area last year.

The ONS counted anyone with no fixed abode at the time of their death, including rough sleepers and people living in night shelters or homeless hostels.

Across England and Wales, 726 homeless people died in 2018 – up 22 per cent from the previous year and 51 per cent more than in 2013.

Michele Price, chief executive of Winchester Churches Nightshelter, said: "Anybody dying is a tragedy.

"What we are all doing now is working really closely together.

"A new working partnership group with people like Hampshire County Council, Winchester City Council's housing team and Trinity Winchester, so we can deliver the best services and support we can to people sleeping rough.

"The overall thing we are working towards it trying to prevent anyone from becoming homeless.

"I think there are a lot of new things being done and hopefully we can prevent it from happening at all."

As previously reported, Winchester City Council leaders have set an ambitious target of putting an end to rough sleeping in the district by 2023.

Despite a £1.8million reduction in funding from Hampshire County Council, civic leaders backed a new Homeless and Rough Sleeping Strategy, with a focus on early intervention and support, promoting system change through partnership arrangements and supplying more accommodation.

Asked about the 2023 target, Ms Price said: "I think it is certainly a wonderful aim to have. We would all love to end homelessness. It is a really difficult one to deliver.

"If we can achieve that it would be fantastic but a lot needs to happen for that to be the case."

Winchester Churches Nightshelter supports around 100 people a year, with around 60 to 65 of these becoming housed through the systems in place.

"The support we get is brilliant," said Ms Price. "We have a huge team of volunteers.

"The help of the community and raising awareness is just so important. By working together we can try to solve the problem."