Local News

Number of unhoused deaths in Kelowna, Vernon rising in tandem with provincial figures

New information from the BC Coroner’s Service is highlighting the rising number of deaths among this province’s unhoused population, and it’s not just urban centres that are suffering from the trend.

Across the province, there have been at least 342 deaths among people experiencing homelessness reported to the BC Coroners Service in 2022, continuing an increase in deaths among the unhoused population of 138 per cent in the past two years.

The coroners service says there were 1,464 deaths of people who were homeless in B.C. in the period between 2015 and 2022, averaging about 183 deaths per year.

Most of those deaths were in Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey, but Interior towns were hard hit as well.

There were 14 deaths in Kelowna throughout 2022, 13 in Vernon and 20 in Kamloops — the only other nearby city listed in the report.

Vernon saw the most dramatic increase year over year, with the number of unhoused population deaths rising from just four in 2021, while Kelowna had 11 that year and Kamloops had six.

Before the last two years, however, the averages were much lower. Kelowna averaged almost six deaths per year in the 2015-to-2021 timeframe, and Vernon saw two deaths a year on average in that same timeframe. Meanwhile, in Kamloops the average was five.

The service says the toxic drug supply has significantly contributed to the increase, with more than eight of every 10 deaths in the review classified as accidental.

For the report, an individual experiencing homelessness was defined as a  person living outdoors, in a makeshift shelter, a parked vehicle, a vacant home or any other structure not intended for habitation; or a person staying at an emergency shelter (overnight) or who is temporarily sheltered (suspected to be for less than 30 days) by friends or family, in a short-term shelter, safe house for youth or transition house for women and children fleeing violence.

Persons residing in short-term shelters, safe houses or transition houses for an unknown length of time were also included.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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