Homeless ‘dying without dignity’ in Los Angeles County: 3,000 in seven years
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (The Tidings) - Anthony Aberasturi, Jose Bacerano, Martin Cabe, Tania Eberts, Robert Gonzales, Larry Hudson, Danielle Klein, Parker Lucas, John McIntosh, Bobby Palmer, Leopolo Tapia, Hector Vasquez.
HOMELESS DEATHS - Bob Erlenbusch is one of the authors of the “Dying without Dignity” report. (R.W. Dellinger)
During those seven and one-half years, some 380 homeless human beings died annually — an average of at least one person every day.
Most (85 percent) were male, but 409 were female. Four out of ten were white, three out of ten Hispanic and a quarter African American. Most (45 percent) died within the City of Los Angeles. One hundred and fifty-four, however, succumbed in Long Beach, 111 in Santa Monica, 55 in Pasadena and 48 in Hollywood. Almost as many died in the summer as in the winter.
The average age of death was just 48 for these homeless people, while the typical American currently lives to be about 77 years old. Some of the homeless died before reaching their first birthday, but others lasted well into their 80s.
Based on the average life expectancy of their gender and ethnicity, the 2,815 homeless individuals studied were expected to live 211,878 years, but only survived 135,528. So their lives were cut short by 76,350 years.
On average a homeless person lived 36 percent shorter than a housed person. As a subgroup, homeless Latina females fared the worse. Their lives were almost one half (49 percent) shorter than expected.
The leading causes of these early deaths in Los Angeles County were cardiovascular problems (24 percent), followed by “unknown,” substance abuse (22 percent) and trauma (18 percent). Others died of pneumonia, cirrhosis, infections and cancer. Heroin, cocaine, morphine and alcohol were the major drugs causing acute intoxication and death. Of the 502 trauma fatalities, many were the result of violence and suicides.
Since the researchers didn’t have direct access to death certificates, they believe their analysis might have “over estimated” the percent of cardiovascular causes of death and “under counted” deaths from substance abuse.
Moreover, the LACEH&H study points out that only about 17 percent of Los Angeles County’s homeless find shelter — the lowest percentage of any big U.S. city. In comparison, Denver shelters some 93 percent of its homeless and Philadelphia 97 percent.
“It is a disgrace that such a small percentage in L.A. is sheltered,” the report declares. “With no resources and, forced to live outside, in their cars and in abandoned buildings, it’s no wonder that hundreds of homeless people died without dignity in our community every year.”
Bob Erlenbusch — one of the authors of the report, along with Whitney Hawke and Max Davis, who wrote those words — has worked on homeless issues for 24 years. Yet the executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness was still surprised — and alarmed — by some of investigation’s findings.
Even in Southern California, he would have guessed that more homeless people living on the street died during the winter months. But the difference in death rates across the seasons was marginal.
In addition, while whites were overrepresented in the homeless death stats, so were Latina women, and to an even greater degree. But the veteran social service administrator was most surprised and saddened by another finding.
“We calculated it out and people are dying every day for seven straight years at a rate of one a day,” he reports, sitting at a wood table in his 11th-floor office on Wilshire Boulevard, with a panoramic view from the San Gabriel Mountains to the gleaming glass towers of downtown.
“When we did the math about life expectancy being shortened overall by 36 percent, the number we came up with for the 2,815 homeless deaths was 76,000 years. I mean, it was just a startling number of lives cut short. And a lot of those deaths — heart disease, diabetes — were preventable if they were on medication.”
The number one reason why so many lives were shortened, according to Erlenbusch, goes back to the tragic fact that only 17 percent of the homeless are sheltered in Los Angeles County. The rest live mostly outdoors, exposed to the elements and lacking access to any kind of health care.
“Then you add on top of that alcoholism and substance abuse, and that’s a recipe to die pretty young,” he observes.
Local lawmakers lack vision
Los Angeles dwarfs other major U.S. metropolitan areas when it comes to the sheer scale of homelessness and number of people dying on the street.
Los Angeles County has about 80,000 homeless on any given night, compared to New York City, ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Diocese News
- Newman Centers are anchor of faith at public colleges
- A Pinprick to Revive Devotion
- Family celebration: Utah women travel to India to meet with sponsored children
- Deportation of Wis. eighth-grader reveals immigration policy's painful side to class
- Mandatory drug testing to be implemented in Oklahoma City Catholic high schools
- Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ‘hands-on’ religious education gets a look in Texas
- Food versus fuel: Is biofuel production to blame for our present food shortage?
- Spirituality key to the dying patient’s ‘quality of life,’ says Catholic doctor
- Bioethics battle is between contrary visions of the human person, says Rome professor
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?