The mortality rate among homeless people in Los Angeles County has increased by 55% in recent years, according to the latest county public health report.
In 2019, 1,289 people experiencing homelessness died. This number increased to 1,811 in 2020 and 2,201 in 2021, according to the report.
The report also found that drug overdoses continue to be the leading cause of death among unhoused individuals in the county. Drug overdoses have been the leading cause of death among homeless people since 2019 and accounted for 37% of all deaths in 2020 and 2021 combined, officials said.
Researchers found that overdose rates among unhoused Black and Latinx people in Los Angeles County are higher in comparison to their white counterparts. The report also said that fentanyl-related overdoses have nearly tripled since 2019 when the rate was just 20% and rose to 58% by 2021.
Coronary heart disease and traffic injuries were the second and third leading causes of death among homeless individuals in the county.
Researchers also found that homicide rates among L.A.’s homeless population increased by 41% in 2021 over previous years. Homicide rates have been steadily rising since 2017, according to the study.
“The findings in this report reflect the urgency with which we must work to protect the most vulnerable among us. Each of the 2,201 unhoused people who died in 2021 was someone’s friend, family, and loved one and we must redouble our efforts to address this crisis,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement.
Solis was also the co-author of the 2019 motion addressing rising homeless mortality.
L.A. City Mayor Karen Bass, along with other city officials, has made the homeless crisis a top priority.
In April, the mayor committed nearly $1.3 billion to combat homelessness, $250 million of which will go towards her Inside Safe program, which aims to get homeless individuals out of encampments and into hotel and motel rooms.
County officials have also created a plan to help curb the number of deaths among homeless people.
The plan includes:
- Expanding and improving county disorder treatment services.
- Increasing distribution of naloxone to people experiencing homelessness and others
- Working with local jurisdictions to lower the risk of fatal traffic injuries among homeless people
- Increasing provision of preventive healthcare and chronic disease management for unhoused individuals
- Expanding and improving county programs that help people experiencing homelessness with substance-use disorders.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a misidentified location in a photo caption.