The number of homeless deaths in L.A. County increased by 56% in a 12-month span according to L.A. Public Health on Friday.

From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, 1,988 deaths occurred among homeless Angelenos, compared to 1,271 in the previous 12 months.

The leading cause of deaths were drug overdoses, as was the case in the previous mortality report, followed by coronary heart disease and then COVID-19.

“The findings in this report reflect a true state of emergency on the streets across our County,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement on Friday. “In a civil society, it is unacceptable for any of us to not be profoundly disturbed by the shocking needs documented in this year’s homeless mortality report. We must redouble our efforts to address this crisis.”

Supervisor Solis added that she believed the county needed to do more to prevent drug overdoses and the distribution of fentanyl and suggested that funds from the American Rescue Plan go toward those efforts.

Deaths doubled among younger homeless populations between the ages of 18-29, while populations between 30-49 saw a 70% increase in deaths.

As far as demographics, the highest increase in deaths came from Latino communities, followed by Black and White communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people experiencing homelessness has clearly extended beyond the immediate effects of this new and deadly virus,” Director of L.A. Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “The pandemic has exacerbated stressors already burdening this vulnerable population, contributing to increases in other causes of death even as COVID-19 mitigation efforts were stepped up in shelters and encampments.”

The county wrote that its plan to combat deaths among homeless include:

  • Expanding and improving field-based, harm reduction-oriented substance use disorder treatment services, with an explicit focus on reaching Latino and Black homeless individuals.
  • Increasing distribution of naloxone to homeless individuals in street settings, shelter/interim housing settings and exiting jails and prisons.
  • Expanding and enhancing county-contracted Substance Use Disorder(SUD) provider utilization of the Homeless Management Information System to improve coordination of care and housing-focused case management for homeless individuals with substance issues.
  • Increasing investments in Recovery Bridge Housing to ensure homeless individuals, including those exiting jails and prisons, receive outpatient SUD treatment services and permanent housing placements.
  • Implementing infectious disease protocols in shelters, encampments, and other congregate settings where homeless individuals live.
  • Further investigating homicide and traffic injury deaths among homeless individuals.
LA Weekly