"We Need To Take Action Now:" LA Homeless Deaths Jump 76%

Kaiser Health News reports that a record number of homeless people died across Los Angeles County last year, on bus benches, parks, hillsides, railroad track, and sidewalks.

Deaths skyrocketed 76% in the last five years, far outpacing the growth in the city's homeless population.

As of 2018, the city's total homeless population was about 53,000, an increase of 39% since 2014. The study said a majority of the people weren't living in government shelters but rather on city streets.

Government officials and so-called experts have limited understanding of what the primary cause for the rise in deaths, but they said the opioid crisis could be a significant reason.

An increase in deaths outlines that Los Angeles County, a region of more than 10 million inhabitants, is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. 

Based on that criteria, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner reported 3,612 deaths of homeless people from 2014 to 2018.

A closer examination of the deaths revealed where the homeless were dying.

About 33% died in hospitals and more than two-thirds died outside, in places like alleyways, sidewalks, parking lots, tent cities, parks, railroad tracks, and on freeway on-ramps.

Male deaths were much higher than female deaths, the study noted. Even though African Americans make up fewer than 10% of the county’s population, they accounted for 25% of the homeless deaths.

Substance abuse played a primary role in at least 25% of the deaths over the last five years, according to the coroner’s data.

The coroner’s exact cause of death "doesnt necessarily tell the whole story," said Brian Elias, the county’s chief of coroner investigations, who was alarmed by the surge in homeless deaths.

Dr. Paul Gregerson, chief medical officer for JWCH Institute clinics in the Los Angeles area, provides medical assistance to the homeless, says that many of the disadvantage people died from heart disease, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and infections.

There has also been a sharp increase in deaths of millennials who were homeless. For instance, the deaths associated with adults under 40 - more than doubled.

"We need to take action now," said Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission shelter on the city's infamous Skid Row. "Otherwise next year, it's going to be more than 1,000."

The report paints a grim picture of a public health crisis expanding like wildfire across Los Angeles.

As to why the report didn't mention the root cause of homelessness on the West Coast is beyond our comprehension. One of the main drivers has been income inequality, derived from the financialization of the economy and excessive monetary policy over the last decade or more, has collapsed the middle class, leaving them on borderline poverty levels.