SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — A new report published by the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness shows 199 homeless individuals died in Sacramento County last year — a 68% increase from 2020 and a new record.
"Since we've been looking at these numbers and doing reports since 2002, we've had 1,506 homeless people die — so that basically translates to one every six days," said Bob Erlenbusch, executive director for the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.
Erlenbusch says there are three leading causes of death among the unhoused in 2021.
"The major causes of death were substance abuse. The second leading cause of death are violent deaths. Traumatic head injuries leads the list, also murders. The third leading cause of death, sort of way down the list are cardiovascular issues," Erlenbusch said.
The report shows eight of the deaths were from hypothermia. Erlenbusch says the homeless population in Sacramento County has doubled over the last three years. He along with other advocates say there's a critical need for more shelter space, affordable housing and treatment on demand when it comes to mental health and substance abuse.
"We've gone from 5,000 homeless people annually to 10,000," he said. "What was the major contributing cause in the dramatic doubling of homeless people in Sacramento is the high cost of housing combined with low wages."
Sacramento County spokesperson Janna Haynes says the county has been working on reducing homelessness for several years, and during fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, she added that around $181,000,000 has been allocated to address the growing issue.
"We have been rapidly trying to increase our capacity to provide not only sheltering services and rehousing services but our behavioral health services which are substance and mental health services," Haynes said. "Homeless deaths are tragic whether it's one or 199 and our goal for next year is to reduce that number and ultimately eliminate it."