Deaths of homeless reach record high in King County, Washington

415 people died while “…on the streets or stayed in a shelter, vehicle, or abandoned building at the time preceding death,” in Washington’s most populous county.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
King County, Washington set a record for homeless deaths in 2023, a number that was revealed as temperatures in the Pacific Northwest plunged below freezing.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, 415 people died while “…on the streets or stayed in a shelter, vehicle, or abandoned building at the time preceding death,” in Washington’s most populous county, according to the Seattle Times.

The number was the highest since data started being recorded in 2003 and 34 percent higher than the previous record of 309 set in 2022.

The total was three times higher than when Seattle and King County first declared a homelessness emergency in 2015.

At the time, then Seattle Ed Murray said: “More than 45 people have died on the streets of the city of Seattle this year," and the Seattle Times reported that 20 homeless people had died in the county due to “drugs, alcohol or both.”

305 died of drugs or alcohol, in 2023, mostly from fentanyl.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, 1,057 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2023, another record, the majority of the almost 1,300 fatal overdoses or alcohol poisonings in the county.

In 2023, The Seattle Times reported “Washington state now has the fastest-rising drug deaths in the nation.”

In January 2023, due to the record number of fentanyl overdose deaths in King County, the medical examiner was running out of places to store the dead bodies.

Data showed that fentanyl overdose deaths have been increasing since 2016 with 109 deadly fentanyl overdoses in 2019, 168 in 2020, and 385 in 2021.

Lawsuits filed in 2018 by Seattle and King County against big pharma stated over 80 percent of the people living on the streets in the area have a substance abuse issue, despite the city and county spending billions of dollars on homeless services and “harm reduction” for addicts.

In 2023, Seattle also broke its all-time high homicide record set in 1994 with many occurring in or near homeless encampments.

On Friday, a Seattle art gallery was set on fire, damaging over one hundred pieces, including paintings by Picasso and Rembrandt, after a homeless man lit a fire in the alley trying to stay warm as temperatures dropped below freezing, according to authorities.

If trends continue, homeless deaths in 2024 are likely to break 2023's record. The first week of the year, outreach volunteers found a homeless person who died in a tent that had decomposed down to only skeletal remains.
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