Homeless people are dying at an alarming rate in B.C.. Deaths of the homeless population spiked 70% in 2014, according to a report released by Megaphone.
Megaphone, a monthly magazine sold by homeless and low-income people, collected data from the BC Coroners’ Service to make the report titled “Still Dying on the Streets.” Around 46 people died while living on the streets in B.C. in 2014, 15% of which were Aboriginal.
In the Fraser region, 14 homeless people died in 2014, twice as many as the year before.
Megaphone’s executive director Sean Condon says the situation is dire.
“The lack of safe and affordable housing across British Columbia is putting homeless people at grave risk,” he says in a press statement. “The best way to prevent homeless deaths is to end homelessness, both street and shelter. All levels of government need to work in coordination to create the social and affordable housing needed to address this crisis.”
Homeless people are also dying younger than the general population. The median age of death of a homeless person in B.C. is between 40 and 49 years old, and they’re more likely to die of suicide or murder than any other group.
More than half of all deaths of homeless people in 2014 were deemed accidental – that includes drug and alcohol overdoses, car accidents, and drowning.
“These deaths were tragic and unnecessary. They could have been prevented had safe and secure housing and supports been available to these individuals,” says Condon.
Megaphone cites 44-year-old Anita Hauck as an example of a preventable death of a homeless person. She died in September after getting stuck in a clothing donation bin as she was trying to get a warm jacket and a blanket for a fellow homeless person in Maple Ridge.
Just as this report was released, the B.C. government announced $15 million in operating funding for a low barrier shelter in Maple Ridge. The location has yet to be determined, however, and a public consultation will need to take place before that happens. The province was going to purchase a Quality Inn hotel to be converted into an interim shelter, but decided not to proceed with that plan.
Megaphone recommends the federal government develop a national housing plan and that the BC Coroners’ Service broaden its definition of homelessness in order to gather more accurate numbers.