According to a report by the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, there were 776 deaths between 2002 and 2016 who the coroner’s office determined the people were homeless, which translates to about one homeless person’s death a week for the past 15 years. Last year, there were about 71 homeless people that died in Sacramento County. Bob Erlenbusch, the executive director of the coalition, believes that the findings highlight the need for more shelter beds for homeless people in the Sacramento area, as well as the need for more aggressive outreach toward men and women who sleep in parks, in cars, along riverbeds, and sidewalks. County Supervisor Don Nottoli, in reaction to the report, stated,
It’s sad and tragic that homeless men and women continue to die under such dire circumstances. I’m hoping the ongoing work and additional commitment of resources by the county and cities will help us better address this problem.
The report found that homeless people are far more likely than the general population to die by homicide or suicide. Alcohol and drugs are listed on the report as the leading underlying cause of death among Sacramento County’s homeless people, followed by blunt force injury. The homicide rate is more than 18 times greater, and the suicide rate is 16 times higher among the homeless population compared to the general population. According to the report, the average age at death in 2016 for homeless people in the county was 48, which is about 30 years younger than the general population.
The city and county have been discussing funding and implementation of the $64 million federal Whole Person Care (WPC) pilot program, which will use matching grant dollars to connect chronically homeless people with treatment and housing. The WPC program’s main objective is to put providers on the streets to reach out to homeless people who are unwilling or unable to sign up for needed services. Based on the report, the coalition wants free or subsidized transportation for homeless people, and care that would immediately help people who are discharged from hospitals and jails. The coalition also recommends funding for more affordable housing in the county that has a “Housing First” approach, which emphasizes connecting people to permanent housing as soon as possible without requiring sobriety or treatment as conditions for moving in. Hopefully Sacramento County, as well as all other California counties, can reduce the number of deaths among the homeless population and get them more help.