Nearly 2,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles County during the first year of the pandemic, an increase of 56% from the previous year, driven mainly by drug overdoses, authorities said.
The findings released Friday in a report from the county’s Department of Public Health showed that despite initial fears, the virus itself was not the main culprit in deaths among California’s largest-in-the-nation unhoused population. But it did cut people off from mental health and substance abuse treatment after services were drastically reduced to prevent the spread of the virus.
Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, the county recorded 1,988 deaths of homeless people, up from 1,271 deaths during the same period a year earlier, the report said.
During both of those years, drug overdoses were the leading cause of death but increased by 78% during the pandemic’s first year. In the pre-pandemic year, the Department of Public Health reported 402 fatal overdoses. In the year after the outbreak, the number nearly doubled to 715, the report said.
The report found that 179 homeless people died from COVID-19 during the pandemic’s first year.
“The findings in this report reflect a true state of emergency,” said First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “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.”