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B.C. homeless deaths jump 70%: report

By Bryan Mc Govern

FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS

FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS

A new provincial report indicates homeless deaths jumped 70% from 2013 to 2014.

Sean Condon, executive director of Megaphone Magazine, and author of the report Still Dying on the Streets, said homelessness is cutting decades off of people’s lives.

“When we look at the median age per death of a homeless person in the province, and that’s between 40-49 years of age, and you get the sense at that point that someone who’s homeless is dying at a very early age,” said Condon.

According to the report, based on numbers from the BC Coroners Service, there were at least 46 registered deaths of homeless individuals in 2014.

“We also know that this is an undercount,” said Condon. “We know that the true number is likely at least twice as high.”

Shayne Williams, executive director for the Lookout Emergency Society, said he has heard of more incidents than the ones counted on the report.

“[We] understand this is certainly undercounted.”

“It’s heartbreaking to know we’ve had a 70% increase in homeless people who’ve died,” said Williams.

The report said 15.6% of all homeless deaths between 2006 and 2013 were Aboriginal people.

“The data that we are getting about Aboriginal homeless deaths is really sparse, we’re just seeing the number,” said Condon. “We’re not getting the deeper understanding of where or why Aboriginal homeless people are dying.”

Condon said he had to fight to get numbers on Aboriginal homeless deaths because the Coroners Service has kept that information out of public hands.

“We’ve been asking for these numbers for a few years and we’re still not getting it so it’s frustrating to wait for it.”

According to Condon, the BC Coroners Service is working in partnership with the First Nations Health Authority to release detailed new data.

The Vancouver Homeless Count 2015 conducted by Matt Thomson found that 19% of homeless males and 17% of females said “they did not feel safe on the place they had stayed the night before.

“These lives should not have been lost and this is a tragedy,” said Condon.