Public Health Crisis: 2,033 Homeless People Died in Los Angeles in 2023

Los Angeles County holds a burial service at a mass grave for the 1,457 unclaimed remains
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis Getty

Over 2,000 homeless individuals died in Los Angeles in 2023 — a nearly 300 percent increase from 2014, according to county officials.

The surge in deaths, revealed by a Guardian review of county medical examiner data, demonstrates the impact of the homelessness and drug abuse crisis sweeping through many of the nation’s cities.

Bodies have been found in “tents, encampments, vehicles, parks, alleys, vacant lots, underpasses, bus stops and train stations,” the report found.

Officials with the county medical examiner have recorded a total of 11,573 homeless deaths over the past decade, with the number rising each year. The 2,033 people who died in 2023 is a 291 percent increase from the 519 deaths reported in 2014, and an eight percent increase from 1,883 in 2022.

The Guardian noted that the numbers are an “undercount,” because the medical examiner’s department only reviews deaths considered “violent, sudden or unusual, or where the deceased has not recently seen a doctor.”

The real total number of homeless deaths is likely to be significantly more than what has been recorded, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

A department spokesperson told the outlet that an estimated 20 percent more deaths have been logged in its database due to its further reach, though they have not yet released the most recent data.

In the last 10 years, 6,720 deaths of homeless people (58 percent) were designated as “accidental,” which includes drug overdoses.

“The data shows a dramatic increase in fentanyl-related deaths over time, with 30 cases listing the powerful opioid as the cause of death in 2018; 255 in 2020; and 633 in 2022,” the Guardian reported.

“For 2023, the medical examiner has logged 575 fentanyl deaths so far, but it typically takes three months for drug-related deaths to have their causes finalized, and hundreds of deaths are still under investigation.”

L.A. County’s homelessness crisis is exacerbated not only by the fentanyl epidemic, but also by the fact that the majority of its unhoused population are living outside. 

Out of the over 75,000 homeless people in the county, 73 percent are living in tents, cars, and makeshift structures. To compare, just five percent of New York City’s homeless population lives outside, with most staying in shelters.


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