L.A. homeless dying at rate of one a day

first_imgThe study – which also lists all of the names of those who have died – was based on coroner’s records and is being formally released today, designated as National Homeless Memorial Day. The report comes as county efforts to institute a wide-ranging and comprehensive homeless shelter program have moved slowly amid funding and other complicating factors. On average, one homeless person dies every day in the county, according to the report. While the majority of those who have died have been in central Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley communities had a number of homeless deaths. The average age among those found dead was 48, about 36 percent younger than the average lifespan. The cause of nearly half the deaths was cardiovascular disease coupled with substance abuse. Nearly one in five were killed violently as victims of homicide, suicide or other trauma. “The human cost of the tragedy of homelessness in the richest country in the history of the planet is illustrated by these statistics,” said Torie Osborn, senior adviser to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “And it’s heartbreaking. I think it just shows we have a long way to go to step up and take care of our most vulnerable citizens. I mean to die alone and on the streets – what could be a sadder Christmas?” The report notes Los Angeles County is the “homeless capital of the nation,” with an estimated 73,000 homeless. Yet only 17 percent of the county’s homeless are able to find shelter, the lowest percentage of any major metropolitan area in the nation. The report contains seven major recommendations for the city and county to improve services to the homeless, but its major recommendation is to make permanent housing options for the homeless a regional priority. “A number of these deaths are preventable,” said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the coalition. “With no resources and forced to live outside, in their cars and in abandoned buildings, it’s no wonder that hundreds of homeless people die without dignity in our community every year. “This is just shameful.” [email protected] 213-974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Virgil Brown served his country in the Vietnam War and afterward, even though he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, he worked a variety of jobs, married and had children. But he battled addictions throughout his life and wound up homeless. A few years ago, Brown sought help at the New Directions Regional Opportunity Center in West Los Angeles. He sobered up and volunteered there, helping other veterans battle their inner demons, said Anthony Belcher, outreach supervisor at New Directions. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champ“He had a very special smile,” Belcher said Thursday as he recalled Brown. “He had one of those deep baritone voices that was full of joy. But underneath, his eyes were sad, like many of us that can’t seem to get out of this cycle.” Brown eventually relapsed into his addictions and was discovered dead in early 2005 on the streets of Skid Row, a victim of an overdose. “Was it despair, hopelessness? Maybe things didn’t work out with his kids. I know these guys are tormented by nightmares,” Belcher said. “He always had problems sleeping. He fought for his country at a time when nobody was sure we were doing the right thing. When he came home, he couldn’t find any relief. “Yes, he had demons. But we as a nation failed him.” Brown is just one of 2,815 homeless people who have died in Los Angeles County since 2000, many alone and forgotten, according to the first study of its kind by the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness. last_img read more