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Friday, 21st December 2007

Dying Without Dignity: Homeless Deaths in Los Angeles County 2000-2007

Dying Without Dignity: Homeless Deaths in Los Angeles County 2000-2007
Source: Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness/National Coalition for the Homeless

This report is an investigation into 2,815 homeless deaths in Los Angeles County between January, 2000 and May, 2007, based on statistics provided by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.

  • Homelessness in Los Angeles: Los Angeles [city and county] has the disgrace of being the homeless capital of the United States with over 73,000 homeless people in the County of Los Angeles, approximately 50% of that in the City of Los Angeles. Only 16.7% of Los Angeles County’s homeless population is sheltered, which is lowest percentage of any major city.
  • Results:
    • Total deaths: 2,815 homeless deaths from January 1, 2000 to May 28, 2007, an average of more than one per day for the nearly 7.5 year period.
  • Demographics:
    • Gender: 2,406 (85%) of them were male, and 409 (15%) were female.
    • Ethnicity: 41% were Caucasian; 31% were Hispanic; 25% were African American; 1% were Asian and 1% were American Indian.
    • Age: the average age of death was 48.1 years, falling far short of the 77.2 year life expectancy of the average American. The age range of these homeless deaths was 0-89.
  • Leading known causes of death: [As noted, since we did not have access to the death certificates, this analysis may have over estimated the percentage of cardiovascular causes of death and under counted substance use]. The leading known causes of death were cardiovascular [24.4%]; [followed by “unknown”]; followed by substance use [22%] with trauma [17.8%] being the third leading cause of death among homeless people. Even with the disclaimer of lack of access to death certificates, these three causes of death among homeless people are consistent with other studies conducted in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Boston.
  • Geography: Not just in “Skid Row:”The largest concentration of Los Angeles County’s homeless deaths occurred within the City of Los Angeles (1,277 or 45 %). Other communities with homeless deaths included Long Beach (154), Santa Monica (111), Pasadena (55) and Hollywood (48).
  • Season: Winter claimed the most homeless deaths with 27% of the total deaths, followed by Summer [25%]; Spring [24%] and Fall [23%].
  • Lives cut short: The 2,815 homeless people in our study were expected to live 211,878 years based on the average life expectancy of their gender and ethnicity. They only survived 135,528 of those expected years. In other words, their lives were cut short by 76,350 years. On average a homeless person’s life is 36% shorter than a housed person’s life. For homeless Latina females, their lives were 49% shorter than expected.

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