Alameda County released its first Homeless Mortality Report, which showed an 89% increase in the number of deaths of houseless people from 2018-2020, according to a county press release issued Wednesday.
The report showed that a total of 809 houseless people died in Alameda County from 2018-2020. Additionally, the report examined disparities in race and gender and found that 77% of those who died were men and 41% of those who died were Black.
Emma Ishii, a social services policy associate in supervisor Keith Carson’s office, said in an email that the data report will help inform policy and practice “across the homeless system of care” — which includes things like housing and health care.
“Regular and thoughtful evaluation and analysis of homeless mortality is the hallmark of a just and equitable County health department and system of care,” Ishii said in the email.
According to the press release, the report was developed by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, or HCSA. In order to obtain the number of deaths, the HCSA developed a data matching technique “across utilization lists and death certificate records” within the California Electronic Death Registration system.
The press release also states that the data matching method provides more detailed information on houseless mortality rates than any of the reports that are currently available.
Carson’s office also issued a press release that echoes the same sentiment.
“The Homeless Mortality Report is more comprehensive than those of surrounding cities and counties,” Carson’s press release states. “For this reason, Alameda County’s homeless death numbers may appear higher than those of other localities relying solely on the medical examiner or coroner reports of homeless deaths.”
According to Ishii, with the data the report collected, the staff has recommended new steps to be taken in order to combat these trends, which includes establishing the Alameda County Homeless Mortality Task Force.
Ishii also noted that David Modersbach from Healthcare for the Homeless gave a presentation where he expressed the importance of remembering and honoring those who have died. He added that the county is providing a page where people can submit the name of someone who was experiencing houselessness who has died.
Colleen Chawla, HCSA’s agency director, said in the county press release that communities must take this information and make strides towards progress.
“We believe no one should die alone or unknown in homelessness,” Chawla said in the press release. “A responsible and just community must work to be closely aware of the deaths of all its members and strive to learn meaningful ways to improve program planning and shape policy.”