Homeless death rate spike

Living on the streets is a death sentence for many.

Homeless death rate spike

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Donna Jones, who was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, is the executive director of the documentary ‘Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence’. (Submitted)
Islander produces documentary offering hope to those with addictions

Donna Jones and husband Brent just released Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

The area surrounding the Chemainus Rotary Club’s bunker door is one of the new surfaces that will feature a mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Up to three new murals coming to Chemainus

Project will be coordinated between the Rotary Club and Festival of Murals Society

Jules Sherred, photographer and owner of Polaris Creative, is putting together an exhibit that combines two of his greatest passions: food and advocacy for those with disabilities. (Polaris Creative photo)
Kickstarter launches for fully accessible exhibit focused on food

Raising awareness has been Sherred’s life’s work.

Sooke artist Jessica Ruth Freedman is one of nine virtual in-residence artists who share the creative process, conduct webinars, write and offer sage advice with artsUNITE, a free online wayfinding platform for artists. (Contributed - Jessica Ruth Freedman)
Sooke artist joins artsUNITE, getting creative through pandemic

National program brings much-needed support to arts community

Most Read