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Number of homeless deaths in BC hits record high: report

Last Updated Apr 26, 2017 at 7:47 am PDT

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Summary

Homeless people are dying at a younger age than previous data shows, finds report

At least 70 homeless people died in 2015, the most recent year statistics are available

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It is one of the most vulnerable populations in the province, and the newest numbers show BC has hit a new annual record when it comes to homeless deaths.

The findings are detailed in the latest issue of Megaphone Magazine, which has been tracking the situation since 2005.

The magazine’s Executive Director Jessica Hannon says 2015 was a bad year. “[It] saw at least 70 homeless people die on the streets of British Columbia, this is 56 per cent increase over the year before.”

That works out to more than one death a week. “And it’s the highest year on record on record, it’s actually 40 per cent higher than the previous high which was in 2008. So, this is a crisis on our streets and it demands an emergency response,” explains Hannon.

More than half of those cases were deemed accidental or preventable by the coroner and Hannon says that number is rising too. That’s compared to just 16.5 per cent for the general population.

Hannon also points out the most recent data pre-dates the start of BC’s deadly opioid crisis, which saw 922 people die from overdoses in 2015. “The scary thing about that is that 2015 wasn’t even the peak of the opioid epidemic. The scary thing is, knowing that, in 2016 I would absolutely expect that these homeless death numbers will go up even higher just knowing how bad and how awful the opioid epidemic got,” says Hannon.

She also points to a major difference when it comes to the average age of death. “People who are homeless die on average, between age 40 and age 49. You compare that with the average age of death for the average British Columbian which is around 76 years of age, so it steals decades from peoples’ lives,” says Hannon.

The findings also show a 114 per cent increase of homeless deaths in the Fraser Region, from 14 people in 2014 to 30 in 2015.