One person experiencing homelessness dies every ten days on average in Hamilton: report

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Photo Credit: City of Hamilton

New data from a group of local healthcare providers shows that one person experiencing homelessness dies every ten days on average in the City of Hamilton.

The data has been collected since June 2021 as part of the Hamilton Homeless Mortality Data Project.

According to their latest data update, the cumulative mortality from June 2021 to November 2023 includes 91 recorded deaths among the homeless population.

The average age of death among the individuals tracked is 46 years old.

In the latest six-month period released (June 1, 2023 to November 30, 2023) there were 21 deaths.

In that same period, overdose was cited as a cause of death in 52 per cent of deaths, while 19 per cent who died are listed as “cause unknown.”

Other known causes of death in the past six months are two people who died by homicide, two who died of a stroke, one who died of a heart attack, and one who died from an infection.

The group collecting the data says that they are supported by community partners including homeless shelters, community agencies, and both Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

They say, “It is our goal that with information on contributors to death, targeted interventions can be initiated and strengthened to reduce mortality and improve health in people experiencing homelessness in our city.”

“In short, to make a difference, we need to know what is happening.”

Those involved in the project include Dr. Claire Bodkin, a family physician with the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (HAMSMART), a mobile outreach service providing care to vulnerable individuals, and an Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster University.

Also involved are Drs. Inna Berditchevskaia, Sarah Ge, and Nicole Chang who are internal medicine resident physicians at McMaster University, social worker Gessie Stearns, and Suraj Bansal who is an undergraduate Health Sciences student at McMaster University.

But the group also appears to have another goal: policy change.

In their latest press release they say that the deaths are “preventable” and that they are a “stark reflection” of the harms associated with drug policies.

“We reiterate long-standing calls for safe and supervised consumptions, safe supply, and other harm reduction strategies aimed at health equity,” they write.

It should be noted that some of those more progressive policy stances have come under increased scrutiny lately.

One such progressive policy, drug use legalization in public spaces including hospitals, was recently put in place in British Columbia before being promptly reversed.

In addition to calling for various drug policies, the group also says that governments “must immediately provide permanent rights-based housing to people who need it.”

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