Shelter beds in Edmonton's Herb Jamieson Centre. ((CBC News))

Deaths among Edmonton's homeless population have increased by nearly a third, prompting anti-poverty advocates to call on governments to improve housing and other services for people who can't afford a place to live.

The Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness released a count Wednesday showing that 41 homeless people died in 2006,up from 32 in 2005.

A countlast yearfound 2,600 homeless people living in Edmonton, up 20 per cent from 2004.

"Really, it's an outrage," said coalition spokeswoman Lorette Garrick.

"Chronic illness ultimately is what happens to people, sometimes exposure, chronic mental health problems," she said, noting thatviolence on the street also "plays a big role in the ultimate early deaths of these people."

Garrick said the homeless population is on the rise in Edmonton, putting more people at risk. They not only need affordable housing, but also require services such as proper health care, she said.

The coalition is hoping to put pressure onevery level of government to spend more on housing. As part of its efforts, the coalition isholding a memorialSaturdayat 4 p.m. atBoyle Street Community Centrefor those who have died.

The statistics don't come as a surprise to Mike Smith, who spends much of the day at the Boyle's drop-in centre and lives on the streets at night. When it's really cold, he stays with his sister.

"I've seen a lot of people die on the street, actually. A lot of my friends have died of overdose and of living outside, being so sick that they can't do anything," Smith said.