By Stephen Naysmith and Brian Donnelly

HOMELESS people in Edinburgh are dying at a rate of more than one every three weeks, according to “truly awful” figures released by the city council.

Ten men and eight women died while sleeping rough between April 2015 and March 2016. The Edinburgh statistics follow the revelation in the Sunday Herald last month that 39 homeless people in Glasgow died in just 10 months.

According to the investigative-journalism website The Ferret, most of those who died in Edinburgh were aged 30 to 50, with two of the 18 aged under 30.

Edinburgh City Council released the details in response to a freedom of information request, but said it did not know the causes of death. While all those who died had been assessed as homeless, it declined to say how many had been in touch with council services to request assistance.

Ann Landels, director of Crisis Scotland, said: “These are truly awful figures, and a desperate reminder of the dangers faced by those who have no choice but to sleep on the streets. Scotland has made considerable progress in the fight against homelessness, but homelessness is increasingly visible on the streets of our cities. Behind the statistics there may be growing numbers who have simply fallen off the radar.”

Shelter Scotland estimates around 5,000 people in Scotland sleep rough. In a report commissioned by Edinburgh council last year, Shelter found 1,976 people had slept rough in the city over a two-year period.

 Adam Lang, head of policy at Shelter Scotland, said: “It is simply shameful and unacceptable that this is happening in 21st-century Scotland. Each one of these deaths represents a human life lost too soon. And while we can’t be sure that all of them are directly attributable to homelessness, they are tragic and deeply concerning.”

Jan Williamson, head of services at Streetwork – a charity offering outreach services to rough sleepers in the capital – said that the figure could well be higher as information was often not shared between the council, NHS services and charities.

“It is very difficult to know accurately how many lives and years are lost to homelessness as there is no systematic recording or tracking system in place,” she added.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh council said: “Protecting vulnerable people continues to be our key priority. We are committed to reducing homelessness across Edinburgh and with partner agencies offer an extensive range of services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise that for some people, who may have more complex needs or be rough sleeping, simply providing accommodation is not always enough to address their homelessness.

“The avoidable death of any vulnerable person without our society is deeply regrettable and cause for concern.”