123 homeless people have died in Santa Clara County this year, which is the highest figure in at least six years and nearly double last year’s total a staggering statistic. No one understands why because the number of homeless is declining why is the number of deaths rising, the trend is troubling. The spike alerted the attention of Dr. Michelle Jorden of the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner/Coroners Office, who is leading a full comprehensive analysis of the deaths going back to 2011 looking toward finding patterns or trends.
Dr.Jorden said that there was no factor that immediately stood out to explain the dramatic rise, and she is very eager to complete the analysis, which she anticipates will take five to six months. It will be the first such comprehensive study of its kind in Santa Clara County, and the collected data will be shared with the county’s homeless services department as well as nonprofits that work with the homeless, Jorden said. Dr.Jorden said. “We’re looking at variables including sex, age, season, causes and manner of death, so on and so forth.”
Dr.Jorden said. “We’re looking at all the variables including sex, age, season, causes and manner of death, so on and so forth.” This year’s current data included nine homicide victims which also is well above figures over the previous six years, which before averaged about four annually. Three of those killings happened in or near a San Jose homeless camp. Although they don’t dispute the trend, some advocates for the homeless are concerned with the total number of homeless deaths reported by the coroner, because they say the number includes formerly homeless people who had been placed in permanent supportive housing.
At the annual ceremony to pay respects that took place in front of San Jose City Hall. This year’s list was twice as long as the 61 read last year and nearly quadruple the 33 read in 2014. But the conductor of the ceremonies said there were people on the list she felt didn’t belong there. “Right off the bat, I saw 17 names of people who were in permanent housing when they died,” She said, adding that they decided to read all the names to make sure nobody was missed. There have been past discrepancies before: For example in 2014 when 33 names were read, yet the coroner reported 80 had perished.
How the coroner investigators make their determination is through the forensic investigation and interviews for example, if someone died in a camp and was known to other homeless individuals, or if family or next of kin identify them as being homeless, or if they have no address on record. It will take some time to find the reason behind this disturbing rising trend, but there is a dedicated team devoted to finding the answers behind it.
Homeless death records
2016 123 deaths, 9 homicides
2015 63 deaths, 3 homicides
2014 80 deaths, 3 homicides
2013 88 deaths, 6 homicides
2012 69 deaths, 5 homicides
2011 60 deaths, 2 homicides
Source: Santa Clara County