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Homeless Deaths Spiked in Santa Monica Last Year


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By Jorge Casuso

June 10, 2024 -- On January 6, 2022, at 8:28 a.m., a 48-year-old man was found dead in a public restroom at the Tesla Supercharger Station at 1421 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Nearly two years later, on December 26, 2023, at 7:47 a.m., a 65-year-old-man was found next to a fence at Olympic High School at 721 Ocean Park Boulevard and pronounced dead.

Over those two years, the dead bodies of 84 homeless individuals would be found in Santa Monica -- on sidewalks and walkways, in parks and public restrooms, in alleys and parking lots and on train station platforms and highway embankments.

A few would die indoors, in a motel or hotel room, while a dozen would die in hospitals, two fewer than the number found dead on sidewalks before they could be transported.

The death toll would spike over the two-year period, from 31 homeless deaths in 2022 to a total of 53 last year -- or an average of one per week, according to data from the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner.

The causes of death varied. But more than half -- 49 -- involved fentanyl, methamphetamine or both. Seven died of causes related to a heart condition.

More than a dozen met a violent death. Eight deaths were the result of blunt trauma, mostly sustained in an attack. Two homeless men were fatally stabbed, one in the abdomen, the other in the chest. One was shot. Five committed suicide.

Men dominated the numbers, accounting for 73 -- or 87 percent -- of the deaths. And while the number of men who died doubled over the two years -- from 24 to 49--, the number of homeless women fell from 7 to 4.

More than half of the homeless individuals who died in Santa Monica -- 48 -- were White. Sixteen were Hispanic and 14 were Black.

The biggest rise in homeless deaths was among Blacks -- from 3 deaths in 2022 to 11 last year, while deaths among Hispanics rose from 5 to 11.

Two homeless men from the Middle East and two Asians -- a Korean woman and a Vietnamese man -- were among those who died, while racial data were not given for two of the deceased.

Of those who died in the city in the past two calendar years, 40 were were between the ages of 30 and 50, 34 were older than 50, while 10 were 30 or younger. The youngest was 24, the oldest 77.

The number of homeless deaths in Santa Monica exploded to 53 last year after slowly rising from 24 in 2020 to 30 in 2021 to 31 in 2022 (“Two Homeless Persons a Month Die in Santa Monica,” May 4, 2022).

The surge was driven by deaths that resulted from overdoses involving fentanyl and methamphetamine, which accounted for 16 deaths in 2020 and 2021 combined, 18 in 2022 and 31 last year.

The reports from the Medical Examiner were requested by The Lookout without the names of the deceased in order to obtain a more thorough picture of where and when they died and the cause of their deaths.

The data provided involve cases that are no longer pending investigation and in which the Department of Medical Examiner has entered a cause and manner of death.

Medical Examiner data on the number of deaths among people experiencing homelessness in LA County is preliminary. The LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) will releases its annual report for 2023 early next year.

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