Toronto Public Health says a new initiative to track homeless deaths on city streets will help “guide efforts to improve the health” of one of Toronto’s most vulnerable groups.

On Jan. 1, public health staff officially started keeping track of the number of homeless individuals who die on city streets, an initiative which some anti-poverty activists say is long overdue.

The city previously only tracked the deaths of homeless people inside city-funded shelters and according to figures released by public health, there were 30 deaths in city-funded shelters in 2016, 45 in 2015, 30 in 2014 and 16 in 2013.

The decision to track all homeless deaths came after city council adopted a motion put forward by Coun. Paul Ainslie last April asking public health to collect more data.

The city will now track homeless individuals who die while living on the street, at a friend’s place, at a shelter or any other location in Toronto.

The new data collected includes gender, age, the individual’s history of homelessness, agencies used by the deceased, the date and place of death, and the unofficial cause of death.

"We will be collecting better data to provide a more fulsome understanding of the scope of this issue in Toronto," Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s acting medical officer of health, said a news conference at the Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto Tuesday.

"When you can’t measure a problem it makes it very hard to address it and come up with solutions to fix it."

Speaking at the news conference Tuesday, Toronto street nurse Cathy Crowe said in the past, she was forced to rely on her own memory to track the tragic deaths on city streets.

"A patient of mine was decapitated by a train. A man on Bay Street was beaten to death in a bus shelter. Several men and women froze to death throughout the years... Others have died of overdose," she said.

"The deaths we know are traumatic and they are violent and they are never natural."

Crowe thanked Ainslie and members of the city for deciding to collect more data.

"I am happy to say, that after all these years, we are finally going to get hard data on these atrocities," she concluded.