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Hundreds of Oahu homeless died over last five years, medical examiner says

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

    An analysis by Christopher Happy, Honolulu's chief medical examiner, showed that 373 people on Oahu were considered homeless at the time of their deaths from 2014 to 2018.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER

    A makeshift homeless encampment, May 21, along Cooke St. at Kakaako Mauka Gateway Park. Hundreds of homeless people have died on Oahu from 2014 to 2018, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office.

Hundreds of homeless people have died on Oahu from 2014 to 2018, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office.

An analysis by Christopher Happy, Honolulu’s chief medical examiner, showed that 373 people were considered homeless at the time of their deaths in the five-year span.

The causes of death were varied, although disease and narcotics use were common causes.

“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,” said Medical Examiner Christopher Happy. “We have also found the investigation of homeless deaths is much more difficult due to a lack of social and familial ties, which are often used to determine the circumstances surrounding how someone dies. It’s clear from the data that we gathered that living on the streets leads to an early death.”

The average age of those people was about 53 years old, nearly 30 years below the average lifespan in Hawaii.

“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,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “The statistics gathered by the medical examiner is a sobering wake-up call, and even for the shelter-resistant population, we need to get them into supportive housing as soon as possible and not allow them to die needlessly. This is what my program of ‘Compassionate Disruption’ is all about.”

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