Homeless deaths in Los Angeles County rose in 2021, with an average of five people dying per day.
Nearly 2,000 homeless people died in L.A. County last year, according to a report by The New York Times. Hundreds of those who died did so in plain view of passersby, with 287 dying on the sidewalk. Another 72 were found on the pavement and 24 died in alleys, the report found, which was based on data from the L.A. County coroner.
The deaths represent a massive increase in homeless deaths over the past half decade. Between 2015 and 2020, the homeless population in L.A. County grew by 50%, the Times reported. During that same period, homeless deaths increased at a rate of 200%. L.A. County alone accounted for nearly half of the homeless deaths in all of California last year.
About 4,800 homeless people are estimated to have died in California in 2021. The state is home to about a quarter of America’s 500,000 homeless.
The Times listed several factors as resulting in the increase in deaths, including the cumulative age of the homeless population increasing and the fact that “living and sleeping outdoors” leads to shorter life expectancy. “The wider availability of fentanyl, a particularly fast-acting and dangerous drug, has been a major cause of the rising death toll, but many homeless people are dying young of treatable chronic illnesses like heart disease,” the Times reported.
There are programs to provide free health care to homeless Americans, but those programs are not always used and treatments are not always maintained.
Those most at risk of dying while homeless are men in their 50s and 60s, who were largely looked over during the coronavirus pandemic when health officials became focused on COVID-19 to the exclusion of almost everything else. One of the largest aspects of health care to be ignored during the pandemic was mental health care, which is what the vast majority of homeless Americans need.
“These are profoundly lonely deaths,” David Modersbach, who researched homeless deaths in Alameda County, told the Times.
Men make up 67% of the homeless population in Los Angeles County, but account for 83% of the homeless deaths, meaning there are issues men are facing that are not being addressed. At least some of that is alcohol and substance abuse related, but violence is another issue. The Daily Wire reported in March that a serial killer was murdering homeless men in New York City and Washington, D.C.
But drug and alcohol issues remain the biggest threat. The L.A. County Department of Public Health released a study that found “homeless people are 35 times as likely as the general population to die of a drug or alcohol overdose. They are also four times as likely to die of heart disease, 16 times as likely to die in a car crash, 14 times as likely to be murdered and eight times as likely to die of suicide,” the Times reported.