Homeless death rate spike

Living on the streets is a death sentence for many.

Living on the streets is a death sentence for many.

An unusual spike in the mortality rate of our homeless citizens this summer has seen a threefold increase, making social service agencies look at the approaching winter with alarm.

Last week, 43-year-old Thomas Theodore Fisher became the latest victim after a portable heater in his makeshift camp caught fire. Fisher is one of about 30 people from the street community to die since June.

Don Evans, Our Place executive director, says the “unusually high” spike in deaths comes from a variety of causes, such as infections, pneumonia, heart attacks and drug-related problems. The death toll also includes one suicide and a killing.

“There are generally more deaths in the winter, so I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come,” Evans told me in a recent telephone chat.

Our homeless community consists of a variety of individuals, some of whom are down on their luck and are actively looking for a helping hand to reach the first rung on the long climb back to stability, while others have deliberately turned their backs on society because of mental-health issues, addiction or the devastating fallout from abuse.

But while larger cities, like Toronto or Vancouver, tend to receive the lion’s share of government funding, Victoria’s homeless population has maxed out its current resources.

The only quick-fix available is for sanctuaries, such as Our Place, to expand their hours to include weekends and evenings. But at an extra cost of over half-a-million dollars per year, funding seems a challenge. On top of that, Victoria also needs another year-round night shelter for the hardest-to-house. And, unfortunately, no sooner would it be built, than we’d likely need another as our homeless population continues to grow.

Victoria’s citizens have big hearts and generous spirits — this is a city where volunteers step up to run sock drives every winter because so many of our homeless citizens lose their feet to rot, simply because their feet are never dry — but that is not enough.

We need new ideas, specially trained workers and a Canada-wide system that helps people before they reach this crisis level. That means higher minimum income levels, more affordable housing and free and easy access to medical and psychological professionals.

Quick fixes and more funding are needed in Victoria now, but they aren’t the long-term solution. We need a national government with vision that looks at Canada’s citizens as a whole rather than divided into have and have-not provinces, and distributes its national resources toward a sustainable solution rather than stop-gap measures. M

Just Posted

Arkells rallying around their fans

Canada’s biggest band (for now) looks to outdo their last show in Victoria

DANCING ANYONE? Museum puts a swing into your step

Royal BC Museum hosting its next adult-only Night Shift event, a swing dance/mixer

Getting OUT with Intrepid Theatre

OUTstages queer theatre festival features packed week of entertainment for fifth anniversary

Vic High theatre staging musical class struggle tale

Cry Baby a love story and social commentary piece presented with campy style

Readers Theatre returns to Congregation Emanu-El

Audience members encouraged to envision plays’ actions from hearing scripts

VIDEO: RBCM’s Wonder Sunday brings fossils into focus

Every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. kids learn about science and history through interactive activities

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

Reflections of Ladysmith: The Art of Michael Dean

Work, place and people are inseparable for Vancouver Island painter

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Sidney Museum’s Lego Exhibition larger than ever

Hundreds of thousands of pieces on display in creations big and small, now through March 31

2019 Canadian Whisky Awards’ big winners announced

Awards held in conjunction with Victoria Whisky Festival

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

Most Read