SubscribeKirill KurevlevCorrespondentAll materialsWrite to the authorHomelessness remains a problem in the US, where over half a million people were affected by homelessness in 2020. With an estimated 161,000 homeless people, California has the nation’s biggest homeless population. And even worse for the homeless are the situation with healthcare and substance abuse.According to Los Angeles County records, there was a 56% increase in mortality among homeless persons in the county during the first year of the pandemic, primarily due to drug overdoses rather than COVID-19.The report, titled “Mortality among People Experiencing Homelessness in Los Angeles County: One Year Before and After the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic” and published by the local Department of Public Health, there were 1,988 homeless deaths in the county between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, up from 1,271 deaths a year earlier.Drug overdoses were the primary cause of mortality in both years, with a 78% increase in the first year of the pandemic. In the year leading up to the pandemic, there were 402 fatal overdose deaths, which increased to 715 deaths in the year following the outbreak. COVID-19 itself claimed the lives of 179 homeless individuals in 2020.
"The findings in this report reflect a true state of emergency," First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis is quoted in Fox News' report as saying. "In a civil society, it is unacceptable for any of us to not be profoundly disturbed by the shocking needs documented in this year’s homeless mortality report."
According to the data, coronary heart disease was the second largest cause of death in the first year of the pandemic, accounting for 309 deaths, up nearly 30% from the previous year. The bulk of deaths were caused by methamphetamine, although the availability of fentanyl also contributed to the rise in deaths.
"A closer look at the OD deaths also reveals notable increase across all age and racial/ethnic groups, with the overall trend largely driven by increases among those aged 18-29 (112%), 30- 49 (112%) and among Latinx (84%) and Black (74%). The increase in OD deaths was slightly higher among men (80%) than women (71%)," the report reads.
According to experts in the US media, the pandemic exacerbated drug abuse and overdoses.”The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people experiencing homelessness has clearly extended beyond the immediate effects of this new and deadly virus,” Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, per Fox News. “The pandemic has exacerbated stressors already burdening this vulnerable population.”Homelessness has always been a problem in Los Angeles, particularly at Venice Beach and Echo Park Lake. Although a law prohibiting sleeping and homeless encampments in specific areas of the city went into force in September last year, the problem has persisted, according to reports.