L.A. homeless deaths largely tied to fentanyl and other drugs

Nearly 900 unhoused people died in 2023, according to a preliminary report.

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(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Data released Thursday by City Controller Kenneth Mejia show at least 898 homeless people died last year on streets, in shelters, on freeways and elsewhere.

Mejia’s report, which analyzed Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner preliminary data, did not break down the number of deaths linked to drugs because toxicology reports may be pending in some cases.

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A Times analysis of the data found that about 65%, or 545, of last year’s deaths reported so far were linked to drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine — an indication of the deadly toll of the drug crisis on the streets of L.A. The number could increase as more toxicology reports come in.

Los Angeles is home to about 46,260 unhoused people — an 80% increase since 2015, according to figures released last year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

In recent years, the city has spent billions of dollars to address homelessness and build more housing. The fentanyl and meth crisis has prompted city officials to fund treatment beds for homeless people suffering from addiction — a service that has typically been paid for by county government, not City Hall.

According to Mejia’s report, 75% of the homeless deaths reported so far last year were accidental — a category that includes drug-related deaths.

About 18% were due to natural causes, 4% were homicides and 2% suicides, the report said. In 1% of the deaths, the cause was undetermined.

At least 73% of the deaths occurred in streets or places such as tents, RVs and parking lots.

According to the report, 31% of the homeless people who died in 2023 were Black. Black people are 8% of the city’s population but 33% of the unhoused population.

The report found that the parts of the city with the highest numbers of homeless deaths were Council District 14, which includes Skid Row and Council District 1, which includes MacArthur Park near downtown.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who represents District 1, said the majority of homeless deaths in her district last year were due to opioids. She said she wants to bring more services to MacArthur Park, where many of those deaths occurred.

“We cannot look away from this crisis — the consequences of simply shuffling people from one neighborhood to the next and prioritizing criminalization over the delivery of services are at best ineffective, and at worst, deadly,” said Hernandez.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times


  1. Rico Lagattuta says

    The solution to the drug problem and the homeless problem is simple. The enactment is difficult. It can be done if LA City Council really wants it done.

  2. Leo of Sacramento says

    The article states:
    “Los Angeles is home to about 46,260 unhoused people — an 80% increase since 2015, according to figures released last year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.”

    80% INCREASE………after how much? BILLIONS. Over 25 BILLION State wide, so far.
    and these are the results?
    Build more, they’ll come.
    Bring more services to them………….to dooooooooo, what? AA meetings? Group hugs? What is the expectation?

    How many ARE in tiny homes? How long are they allowed to reside in them, before getting jobs? being self-sufficient?

    46,000 THOUSAND people are homeless in Los Angeles City…..that has a population of 3.9 MILLION people. That’s .012% of the population that is homeless. Yet, they spent BILLIONS with no results. 46 THOUSAND people, are ruining a city of 3.9 MILLION?

    That’s my point. You’re allowing .012% of your population to destroy a city.

    Last I heard, fentanyl and methamphetamine were illegal ot own, use or possess. What changed?
    Oh, right………………narcan is readily available at tax-payer expense.

    Seems nobody wants this fixed……………they only provide lip service too fix it, meaning: YES WE WANT TO FIX IT! But the reality is, they don’t. It pays, too well to resolve successfully.

  3. Cynthia Schick says

    I was a substance abuse counselor in Los Angeles for 20 years. Bureaucrats and ideologues pushed for a change in treatment approach to so-called harm reduction for years and they finally got their way through a perfect storm of Prop. 47, treatment “on demand,” the complete takeover of treatment by DMC and DMH, prohibition of effective treatment strategies, and removal of negative consequences for using drugs. There are now way too many people people whose fortunes (or at least livelihoods) are tied to maintaining the current dysfunction. I doubt it can be fixed or even changed much for the better. The will to change just isn’t there. Most CA voters are delusional about addiction, stuck in a misguidedly compassionate view that is as far from reality as can be.

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