More than 1,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles, California, in 2018, double the number of deaths from six years ago, according to a new report, underscoring the severe housing crisis in America’s wealthiest and most populous state.
The number of homeless deaths increased from 536 in 2013 to 1,047 in 2018, according to a report by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
The report showed that the leading causes of death were coronary heart disease, which accounted for 22 percent of deaths, followed by alcohol and drug overdose at 21 percent. Other leading causes included traffic injuries, homicide and suicide.
Los Angeles County, which includes the city of Los Angeles, has population of more than 10 million. Los Angeles itself is California’s largest city and the nation’s second-largest.
"This alarming increase in homeless deaths requires immediate action to improve the care for our most vulnerable populations," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Health Department, said in a news release.
The report also found that homeless people died on average 22 years earlier than the general population.
"Homelessness can have a devastating impact on a person's health and well-being, and we need to better understand the underlying causes that contribute to our County's high mortality rate among those who are experiencing homelessness," Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said.
The data highlights the worsening housing crisis in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, where officials estimate there are now 59,000 people homeless, including more than 44,000 people who are living in cars, tents, or makeshift quarters.
An estimated 130,000 people are homeless in California on any given day, more than any other state, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development says.
“We’ve got three people a day dying on the streets,” said Adam Rice, an organizer with Los Angeles Community Action Network. “It is a complete failure of leadership. Darrell didn’t need to die. None of these people needed to die. The reason this is happening is because there’s not proper housing.”
Soaring rents and a major shortage of affordable housing have pushed people out of their homes in the area, with more than half of unsheltered adults in a recent count saying they were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
US President Donald Trump, who was in California last month for a series of fundraisers for his 2020 re-election campaign, has criticized the homelessness problem in the Democratic strongholds of California’s biggest cities.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco, have asked Trump for federal funds to expand programs to provide stable living environments for the homeless.