Crediting progress made with multi-agency collaboration and programs to keep people off the street, County Public Health officials said Tuesday there had been a 25 percent decrease in deaths of homeless people from 2009 to 2011. Giving the third report to the Board of Supervisors since the Homeless Death Review Team was formed in 2009, Dr. David Lennon said 2009 saw 40 homeless people throughout the county die, while 2011’s number decreased to 30. There were 39 homeless deaths in 2010.
Of the 30 who died in 2011, 22 were males, five were veterans, and 27 were Caucasian. The average age of death was 53. Over the three years, 39 percent have died from natural causes, while 27 percent did not list the manner of death. The cause of death in 41.5 percent of cases was drug or alcohol related, while 28.5 percent were cardiovascular related. More than 70 percent of the decedents suffered from alcohol disease, and 90 percent of those who had mental-health conditions also used drugs or alcohol, Lennon said.
Access to housing, he continued, is “paramount to promoting health and preventing deaths.” To that end, Lennon said, 190 previously homeless people are now in housing through mulit-agency programs focused on the homeless population. Also helping are programs like the homeless warming centers that pop up around the county whenever inclement or cold weather strikes, getting the homeless out of the wet and cold, even if temporarily. Enhanced coordination and multiple outreaches have helped better understand the homeless population and identified those at highest risk.