New city data shows 100 homeless people died in Toronto in 2017
Chris Herhalt, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, April 12, 2018 9:40AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:14AM EDT
One hundred homeless people died in the City of Toronto during 2017, the first full year city officials collected data.
A Toronto Public Health staff report released Wednesday says the majority of the deaths occurred in the city-run shelter system or once shelter users were transported to hospital.
“Most deaths occurred indoors, the majority of these deaths were male, and the median age of death was 48 years. The leading known causes of death were drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” staff wrote in the report.
The information stems from a year where the city had to dramatically increase shelter space for all those in need due in part to a particularly cold winter.
The demand prompted the federal government to offer Moss Park Armoury as a shelter for a period of time, and the city opened new temporary winter respite sites and expanded the capacity of others.
More than 6,000 people accessed city shelters each night on average in March, 50 per cent more than the occupancy rate that was reported in March of 2016.
The data on deaths comes from all 200 local agencies and charities that work with the city to operate shelters and conduct outreach with the homeless. In previous years, the city only collected data on deaths of those in city-run shelters.
Last year’s data includes those assisted by other agencies as well as those whose “housing situation is precarious and does not meet safety or public health standards.”
The months with the highest fatalities were February with 11, July with 13 and September with 11.
“There are no epidemiological findings to suggest a monthly or seasonal pattern (to the deaths),” staff wrote.
Sixty-five of the deaths occurred indoors, “often in a hospital/infirmary or shelter,” while nine occurred outdoors.
The location of 26 of the deaths is not known.
Seventy-four of those who died were male, 25 were female and one person was transgender.
The median age of those who died was 48, meaning the life expectancy of a homeless person in Toronto is more than 30 years below the national average of 81 years for males and 85 years for females.
“Although some of the leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, are common among the general population, the most striking feature of these data is the relative youth of the decedents,” staff wrote.
One homeless person who died in the city last year was 94-years-old.
Corresponding with the ongoing opioid crisis in North America, the leading cause of death was drug overdose, which was reported in 27 cases.
Other causes of death included cardiovascular disease, which was responsible for 10 deaths, and cancer, which claimed the lives of 9.
The causes of death for three individuals are still being investigated by the coroner.
The report says decreasing housing affordability, the lack of harm reduction services for drug users and lack of access to mental health services are each contributing to the increase in need for shelter services in the city.