Vancouver, BC (April 26, 2017) Megaphone is calling for a Death Review Panel on homeless deaths after new data shows more people died homeless in 2015 than in any year on record.
“This is a crisis on our streets that demands an emergency response,” says Jessica Hannon, Megaphone’s executive director.
At least 70 homeless people died in 2015, more than one person per week, details Megaphone’s third annual report Dying on the Streets (Third Edition, 2017). The report uses the latest data from the BC Coroners Service to show how dangerous homelessness is in this province and how the situation is only getting worse. The report also shows 2015 homeless deaths hit a new high that is 40 per cent higher than the previous high of 50 deaths in 2008.
Megaphone’s report shows that people experiencing homelessness die on average three decades earlier than people in the general population. The median age of death for someone who is homeless in B.C. is between 40 and 49 years of age.
This year’s report has a personal aspect, as Megaphone highlights the tragic death of one of their vendors. Michael sold Megaphone magazine for several years in Vancouver. He died in December 2016, in an alley off of Commercial Drive. His death is still under investigation by the BC Coroners Service.
“Even when Michael had at times very little, he always had something to give in some way,” said Michael’s brother David. “He will be most remembered for the caring, gentle, active kindness at his core.”
“Homelessness has severe, long-term health effects. It puts individuals in vulnerable situations, exacerbates existing medical conditions, and prevents people from accessing proper care,” says Hannon.
“Homelessness is life-threatening, but the majority of these deaths are preventable. It is heartbreaking to know that Mike could still be alive today if he had a safe home and proper support.”
This year Megaphone’s Homeless Deaths Report also found a large increase in the number of homeless people who have died from poisoning (alcohol and drugs). The B.C. Coroners Service data does not specify whether these deaths are associated with illicit drugs, but trends in opioid overdose would suggest a large number of reported homeless deaths in 2015 are associated with illicit drug overdose.
“With the overdose crisis taking an unprecedented 922 lives from illicit drug overdose in 2016, it’s safe to assume that once data is available, the number of people experiencing homelessness who die largely preventable deaths will have further increased in 2016,” says Hannon.
In light of the unprecedented number of homeless deaths in British Columbia in 2015, Megaphone calls upon the next provincial government to support a Death Review Panel on homeless deaths. A Death Review Panel can examine the circumstances in a group of deaths with similar factors to develop recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar deaths in the future.
Read the full report here
Dropbox link to photo of Mike
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