Packed In: Overcrowded housing in Los Angeles has brought death by design
By David Kudla, Deseret News
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 15 2013 8:58 p.m. MDT
(MCT) — The city of Los Angeles has experienced a dramatic increase in its homeless population in the past five years, with the number expected to increase by 33 percent from 1,900 people in 2010 to 2,400 people in 2013.
As the number of homeless in the city grew, so too did the number of deaths among the homeless.
According to the most recent data provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, between January 2009 and Jan. 19, 2011, there were 22 homeless deaths — all due to an underlying cause.
Of those 22 deaths, 16 occurred as a direct result of not taking daily medications prescribed by city and county health officials, like those prescribed to end the symptoms of methadone addiction.
The most recent two deaths this year occurred in the span of a few months — in September and January — and did not directly involve the use of drugs. The people died not only from the effects of untreated drug use, but also as a result of being struck by an automobile and falling from a roof.
With an average of about 100 homeless deaths daily in Los Angeles County, this is a rate of death two to four times higher than the rest of the nation and five to 15 times than the nation average, city officials said.
Although most of the deaths are related to drug use, it still takes a tragedy to make the city realize that there is a health crisis affecting the entire community, and by extension, the entire community must be taken care of, said John Duran, executive director of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
“The fact that we’re talking about this and talking about how we try to respond to it is an opportunity for everyone in the community to really see how serious this is,” Duran said.
That realization has prompted city officials to develop a plan to help the homeless to find housing and health services.
This is the second update in a series of three on the rapid growth of the homeless community in Los Angeles in recent years. The first update was released in early December.
A city of Los Angeles report released in February