Homeless in Whalley. (File photo: Now-Leader)

Homeless deaths in Surrey quadruple between 2007 and 2016

Deaths in the city spiked in 2015 from the previous year

Homeless deaths in Surrey quadrupled between 2007 and 2016, according to new data from the BC Coroners Service.

The report, released Thursday (March 21), summarizes the deaths between 2007 and 2016 that were reported to the coroners services and where the deceased met its “definition of homeless.” Cases were included if “no fixed address” was given as the home address, the location was at a homeless shelter or if the “circumstances of death suggested homelessness.”

Vancouver saw the highest number of deaths at 43 in 2016, followed by 17 in Surrey and 16 in Victoria.

In 2007 in Surrey, there were four homeless deaths. That number stayed consistent through to 2009, and then dropped to three deaths in 2010 and dropped again to two deaths in 2011.

From 2011 to 2013, there were two homeless deaths each year. In 2014, the number of deaths rose to five, before spiking to 12 deaths in 2015 and 17 in 2016.

In 2016, 991 people died of an illicit drug overdose, marking the beginning of a steady increase in the number of fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl. On April 14, 2016, the provincial government declared a public health emergency in response to the steadily climbing overdose deaths.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s first public health emergency continues, April 13, 2017

A total of 175 homeless people died across the province in 2016, compared to just 73 the year prior. The data released Thursday includes all cases where no fixed address or permanent address was found, or the circumstances suggested homelessness.

Fifty-three per cent of the people met the criteria for street homelessness and 36 per cent for sheltered homelessness.

In total, 56 per cent of deaths were accidental, 23 per cent were classified as natural and 11 per cent resulted from suicide.

In 2016, 86 per cent of accidental deaths and 53 per cent of all deaths resulted from unintentional drug and/or alcohol poisoning, whereas in previous years (2007 to 2015), alcohol and drug poisoning deaths accounted for 63 per cent of accidental deaths and 34 per cent of all deaths on average, the report states.

READ ALSO: Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January, March 19, 2019

READ ALSO: Fentanyl-link overdose deaths soar in B.C., Sept. 7, 2017

Males, according to the report, were more likely than females to meet the criteria for street homelessness. Overall, 85 per cent of those who died were male, while the percentage of females “trended downwards with age.”

From 2007 to 2016 in B.C., there were 55 homeless deaths per year on average, the report states.

The coroners service said the data may be under-reported because of cases where an investigator could not confirm a person’s housing status.

– With files from Ashley Wadhwani

READ ALSO: Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

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