British Columbia

B.C. coroner's report shows 140% increase in homeless deaths in 1 year

A report from the BC Coroners Service on homeless deaths from 2007 to 2016 indicates the overdose crisis caused a spike in numbers between 2015 and 2016.

Massive spike in deaths between 2015 and 2016 linked to overdose crisis

In B.C., 175 homeless people died between 2015 and 2016, a 140 per cent increase over 2015's 73 deaths. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

A report from the BC Coroners Service shows a significant increase in the number of deaths of homeless individuals in this province since the opioid crisis was declared in 2016.

According to the report, 175 homeless people died between 2015 and 2016, a 140 per cent increase over 73 deaths in 2015. The province declared a state of emergency regarding the opioid crisis in the spring of 2016.

"Certainly, we see some correlation between the sharp increase in the number of deaths involving homeless individuals and the increase that we saw at the end of 2016 with deaths involving overdoses," said Andy Watson, a spokesperson for the coroners service.

The deaths taken into account in this report include non-natural deaths, sudden deaths and unexpected deaths where the person was not under the care of a physician.

Behind the numbers

In 2016, 86 per cent of accidental deaths and 53 per cent of all deaths resulted from unintentional drug and/or alcohol poisoning.

In comparison, between 2007 and 2015, drug and/or alcohol poisoning accounted for an average of 63 per cent of accidental deaths and 34 per cent of all deaths.

The report defines homeless individuals as cases where no fixed address was given as the home address, the place of injury was a homeless shelter or if the circumstances of death suggest homelessness.

The findings show 85 per cent of those who died were male. The highest proportion of deaths for females was 27 per cent in the 30 to 39-year-old age group. 

Together, the Fraser Heatlh and Vancouver Coast Health authorities accounted for 59 per cent of deaths from 2007 to 2016.

In 2016, the majority of deaths occurred in Vancouver, followed by Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna.

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