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

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

Just Posted

Jen Hodge conducts an online concert during the pandemic after returning to B.C. from New York City. Photo courtesy Claudia Nobauer
Canada Recovery Benefit won’t replace the magic of live performance, musicians say

Cash will help, but its the audience connection that most performers miss — and crave

Mary Fox’s new book My Life as a Potter is available at bookstores nationwide. (Cole Schisler photo)
My Life as a Potter raises funds for Mary Fox Legacy Project

Acclaimed Vancovuer Island potter’s story raising money for developing artists

Premier John Horgan and Rob Douglas, BC NDP candidate for Cowichan Valley, meet with Cowichan First Nation elders, as they demonstrate spearfishing along the river. (Submitted)
Horgan acknowledges A&E sector hit hard by COVID-19, but showing signs of recovery

Hollywood North doing better than Hollywood South, Horgan says

Gatineau artist Michèle Provost visits the Malaspina Galleries during her artist residency on Gabriola Island. (Photo supplied)
Gatineau artist the first to take part in new Gabriola Island artist residency

Michèle Provost to create art book reflecting on the positives of aging

Legendary Vancouver-based blues and jazz guitarist and vocalist Jim Byrnes will perform live at the Tidemark Theatre in a concert that will also be streamed. Contributed photo
Legendary blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes hits the Island

Playing Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre for a hybrid live/online show

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

Kent Laforme looks through the sound tunnel, or visual portal, carved inside the 25,000-pound marble sculpture that could be installed at Cattle Point. (Screen Shot, Oakbay.ca video)
Kent Laforme looks through the sound tunnel, or visual portal, carved inside the 25,000-pound marble sculpture that could be installed at Cattle Point. (Screen Shot, Oakbay.ca video)
Stone Takaya sculpture could soon ‘howl’ at Cattle Point

Oak Bay inviting public suggestions for 25,000-pound marble sculpture

The Sid Williams Theatre marquee is once again proudly displaying upcoming events. Photo supplied
Courtenay’s Sid Williams Theatre reopening in a limited capacity

Theatre has been closed since March due to COVID-19

Nanaimo-based ceramic artist Joe Lyons is presenting his first solo exhibition, ‘Poppin Bottles Soda Distraction,’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts from Oct. 26 to Nov. 12. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-based ceramic artist showcases variety of bottles in first solo show

Joe Lyons presents ‘Poppin Bottles Soda Distraction’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts

Toronto poet Robert Priest is presenting an online reading on Oct. 24. (Photo courtesy Allen Booth)
Nanaimo spoken word society presents online reading by prolific Toronto poet

Robert Priest to dip into 40-year catalogue for upcoming Zoom reading

Nanaimo singer Elise Boulanger releases her new single, ‘Cigarettes et rosé’ on Oct. 11. (Photo courtesy Laura Baldwinson)
Nanaimo singer releasing new single inspired by overheard conversations

Elise Boulanger to unveil ‘Cigarettes et rosé,’ accompanying ukulele tutorial video to come

Most Read