Vancouver, BC (March 29, 2016) — At least 46 homeless people died in British Columbia in 2014—a 70 per cent increase from the year before—a new report released today by Megaphone details.
Megaphone published its second report on homeless deaths in B.C., Still Dying on the Streets, which 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 lack of safe and affordable housing across British Columbia is putting homeless people at grave risk," says Sean Condon, Megaphone's executive director. "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 individuals are still dying at a much earlier age than the general population. According to the report, the median age of death for a homeless person in B.C. is between 40 and 49 years of age. This contrasts with the general population's average age of death of 76.4 years of age and a 2014 life expectancy of 82.92 years of age.
Still Dying on the Streets also shows that homeless deaths are largely preventable. Homeless people are three times as likely to die by "accidental" means and twice as likely to die by homicide and suicide than the general population.
"Homelessness is an early death sentence," says Condon. "These deaths were tragic and unnecessary. They could have been prevented had safe and secure housing and supports been available to these individuals."
Megaphone is calling for all levels of government to take immediate action to end homelessness so people like Anita Hauck do not die premature deaths.
Anita, 44, was a leader at last year's homeless camp in Maple Ridge. She died last September after she got stuck in a clothing donation bin, trying to get a jacket and blanket for a fellow homeless person who was struggling to stay warm through the night.
"Anita was always there for other people," says Loretta Sundstrom, Anita's mother. "She wanted to turn homeless people from invisible to visible and help them get housing. Anita herself just needed a job and a place to stay. If she had gotten a place to stay she could have done anything with her life."
With housing costs and illicit drug overdose deaths continuing to rise in B.C., Megaphone expects homeless deaths will continue to increase unless all levels of government commit to provide more housing and health supports.
Read ‘Still Dying on the Streets’ at MegaphoneMagazine.com
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Megaphone is a magazine sold on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria by homeless and low-income vendors. Vendors buy each issue for 75 cents and sell it for $2, keeping the profit. Megaphone provides low-threshold employment for marginalized individuals who struggle with various barriers—poverty, addiction or mental or physical illness. By selling Megaphone magazine, vendors gain a sense of pride and financial security