A new report published by Megaphone magazine has found that more homeless people in British Columbia died in 2015 than in any year on record.
The report, titled Dying on the Streets (Third Edition, 2017), is an update on the deaths of homeless people in BC from 2006 to 2015.
According to Megaphone’s data, 70 homeless people died in 2015, which is a 56% increase from 2014 and the highest in any documented year.
Half the homeless people who died in BC in 2015 were under 40 years old. The median age of death for a homeless person was between 40 and 49 years old.
Homeless deaths happen on the street
From 2006 to 2015, the majority of people who died while homeless (54.5%) passed away on the street, while 33.7% died in a shelter.
In 2015, most of the homeless people who died (89%) were men or boys, according to the BC Coroners Service.
However, the report notes that women make up a higher percentage of the “hidden” homeless population and may not be counted in the coroner’s homelessness definition.
Hidden homeless are those who stay temporarily with friends or family, stay in violent relationships for lack of housing options, and are otherwise not counted traditionally.
The BC Coroners Service, therefore, estimates the true number of people who died in BC while homeless is roughly double the amount recorded.
Deaths linked to alcohol and drug use in 2015
In 2015, the majority of recorded homeless deaths were linked to drug and alcohol poisoning. This was a 161.1% increase from the previous year.
Megaphone says they “expect to see another increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness who die from drug or alcohol overdose when the 2016 homeless deaths data is released.”
Between 2006 and 2015, most of the homeless people who died in BC (115) passed away in the Metro Vancouver region.
Overall, between 2007 and 2015, some 81 homeless people died in the City of Vancouver itself.
Governments must step up
In order to prevent the deaths of homeless people in BC, Megaphone is calling for more support from all levels of government.
“Municipal governments of all sizes must accept there is a homeless crisis in their cities and treat it with the urgency of a public health emergency,” said Megaphone in the release.
“In turn, provincial and federal governments must support under-resourced municipalities to reduce poverty, improve harm reduction services, and build affordable and social housing.”