In Sacramento, as in California, more homeless people are dying according to the California Health Report.
A total of 127 homeless people died in 2017, up from 71 in 2016, the paper reports, citing research from the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. That’s a 75 percent increase, and is about “three times the average number of deaths of homeless people in the county between 2002 and 2013,” according to the paper.
There are several trends behind those figures — mainly that homelessness itself is up in recent years.
Between 2015 and 2017, the number of people experiencing homelessness at a single point in time increased by upwards of 1,000, Janna Haynes, communications officer for Sacramento County’s homeless initiatives told the paper.
“Incrementally, we’re probably looking at about the same percentage of homeless deaths,” she said. “But obviously it’s unacceptable and we’re very saddened by it.”
From the California Health Report:
Homeless people in Sacramento County are now five times more likely to die than people in the general population, the report stated. They’re also 23 times more likely to be murdered, and 17 times more likely to commit suicide, figures showed.
More than half of the homeless deaths in 2017 were the results of an accident, a third could be traced to drug or alcohol abuse, and more than 1 in 10 deaths occurred from either homicide or suicide. Violent deaths included shootings, blunt force injuries, stabbings and drownings.
Those numbers are especially alarming considering the city’s response to figures from the previous year. After witnessing a dramatic increase in deaths in 2016, city leaders vowed to increase access to warming stations and housing for the chronically homeless, as Next City reported at the time.
But housing takes time, and Sacramento’s swell in homelessness mimics a similar swell statewide.
The “most recent homeless count report in 2017 found California led the nation in both the percentage of people who are homeless, and the increase in homeless people over 2016, a rise of almost 14 percent,” according to the Health Report. And while not all counties — and neither federal, nor state agencies — track data on homeless deaths, the rise in numbers statewide does appear to be increasing the death rate as well.
A lack of affordable housing is a main contributor to the problem, as Next City has also covered.
“I think a lot of people find themselves unable to pay their rent or pay their mortgage,” Haynes told the paper. “I think that it’s a problem people are seeing everywhere as the housing market gets better.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.