Estimated homeless deaths decreased from 2018, still in triple digits

vigil
Members of the community gathered for the 23rd Annual Homeless Vigil last year in the homeless corridor. (Nevada Current file photo)
Members of the community gathered for the 23rd Annual Homeless Vigil last year in the homeless corridor. (Nevada Current file photo)

At just 30-gestational-weeks, baby girl Melson, as she was identified, died at St. Rose Hospital. Eighty-year-old Terrall Kennedy died in June at Sunrise Hospital from multiple blunt force injuries, which was determined to be an accident. 

They represent the oldest and youngest listed on the Clark County Coroner’s report of homeless and transient people who died in 2019. 

The office estimates 147 died since the beginning of the year, which is down from 192 reported in 2018. The report is based on residency status at the time of their death. 

The Homeless Annual Candlelight Vigil is scheduled Thursday to recognize those who died on the street. It comes about a week before the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Dec. 21. 

Throughout the year, people experiencing homelessness died anywhere from hospital beds to alleyways, vacant parking lots and sidewalks. The reported causes of death varied from drug intoxication, a variety of environmental factors such as exposure to extreme heat and cold, and health reasons such as sepsis, stroke and heart disease.

The manner of death, or how the death is classified, is pending in 10 cases, unknown in six and undetermined in three. In the remaining cases, 91 were determined to be accidental, 24 natural, eight homicide and five suicide.  

According to the annual homeless census, the reported number of those experiencing homelessness has been declining for the last few years. The 2019 Southern Nevada Homeless Census reported 5,530 during its annual count, down from about 6,100 the year before.

More than 14,000 are expected to experience homelessness at least once during the year. 

The number of chronically homeless —  a more vulnerable subset of the homeless population that has been homeless for at least one year or had more than four episodes of homelessness in three years and also have a disabling condition — has grown.

Despite a decrease in the overall number of people experiencing homelessness, homeless and transient deaths had been rising in Southern Nevada with 192 reported in 2018. The 2018 number was a 47 percent increase from 2017.

The last time the number of those who died was in double digits was 2013.

As outreach workers point out repeatedly, these deaths, many that are preventable, highlight the need for more affordable housing.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.