State official: Hundreds of homeless die on street

Caldwell: Statistics are a wake-up call

HONOLULU (AP) — Hundreds of homeless people in Hawaii died over the last five years, according to a medical examiner.

Analysis by Honolulu Chief Medical Examiner Christopher Happy found 373 people were considered homeless at the time of their deaths on Oahu from 2014 to 2018, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

Causes of death varied, although disease and narcotics use were common, Happy said.

“Compared to Oahu’s general population those who are homeless have a higher rate of death from drug abuse, infectious diseases, and in far too many instances, they fall victim to homicide,” Happy said. “It’s clear from the data that we gathered that living on the streets leads to an early death.”

The analysis found the average age of the deceased homeless people was about 53 years old, nearly 30 years below the average lifespan in Hawaii.

Investigations into the deaths of homeless people are made more difficult due to a lack of social and familial ties, which are often used to determine the circumstances surrounding how someone dies, Happy said.

The statistics are “a sobering wake-up call,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“The truly compassionate thing to do for our homeless population is to get them into shelter and off our streets where statistics show they are more likely to die at a relatively early age,” Caldwell said.