• Mon. Jun 5th, 2023


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Homeless Deaths in Los Angeles Soared During the Pandemic

It’s Monday. We look at why homeless deaths soared during the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles but not in New York. And, the Gilroy Garlic Festival has been canceled.

California saw a surge in homeless deaths during the pandemic. But for a number of reasons, that same surge did not happen across the country.

Three times as many homeless people died in Los Angeles County as in New York City during the first year of the pandemic, according to recently released data by public health officials.

A report published on Friday by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that 1,988 homeless people died in the county from April 2020 through March 2021, a 56 percent increase from the 12 months before the pandemic began. A separate report published by officials in New York counted 640 deaths among homeless people from July 2020 through June 2021, an increase of just 4 percent from the previous year.

On paper, New York City has more unhoused people than Los Angeles County. In their most recent published reports, New York officials counted 78,000 homeless people among the city’s population of more than eight million, compared with 64,000 unhoused people tallied in a count carried out in Los Angeles in 2020, where the county has about 10 million people. (Updated numbers from a count carried out in February are due out this summer.)

But Dr. Margot Kushel, an expert on homelessness at the University of California, San Francisco, says the numbers are misleading. The homeless tallies in California are considered vast undercounts because most unhoused people are unsheltered. The annual counts of the homeless, which often take place on a single night in winter, might capture only a third of the people who are homeless during the course of the year, Dr. Kushel estimates.

A vast majority of the homeless in New York, by contrast, are in shelters, making it easier for officials to account for them.

And the mortality rates are necessarily different, she said, because the unhoused in New York skew much younger — often families with children — than those in California, where the homeless are more commonly older and single.

“Age is a crucial risk factor for dying,” Dr. Kushel said. “What we have seen in homeless populations is elevated deaths rates at all ages, but the highest death rates are among older adults.”

One thing that New York and Los Angeles did have in common was the gender ratio of those who died. It was overwhelmingly male: 81 percent of homeless deaths in Los Angeles County were of men, compared with 83 percent in New York.

Half of homeless deaths in New York occurred in hospitals, while the unhoused in Los Angeles were more likely to die on sidewalks, in vacant lots, on park benches and on the beach — a rash of profoundly lonely and yet very public deaths discussed in a New York Times article last week.

Drug overdoses were increasingly intertwined with the homelessness crisis. They were the leading cause of death among the homeless in Los Angeles, where overdoses were responsible for 36 percent of deaths; in New York, it was 37 percent. That was a sharp increase from the previous year: Overdoses among the unhoused were up around 80 percent in both places.

What happens when a historic Napa vineyard receives a dose of youthful energy?

Today’s travel tip comes from Cherise Seim Thompson, who recommends visiting a small town near Santa Rosa:

“Occidental has a tiny, two-block Main Street filled with quintessential local artisan storefronts, a small grocery store and a selection of restaurants, bistros and cafes boasting authentic California cuisine and wine. Unlike other glitzed-out parts of California, Occidental retains a low-key granola vibe. The town center is encircled by very steep, Redwood tree-studded hills and is proud of its long standing Italian restaurants that harken back to one’s great-grandparents’ era of delicious, fresh and home-cooked food. Immigrant Italian families cultivated many of the farms in and around Occidental.

There are many hilly roads to explore in and around this hidden gem. Spring and fall open art studios, an ancient Redwood tree park, wine tasting and honor-system fruit and vegetable stands welcome Sunday drivers and cyclists alike. A few dear friends and family have relocated from San Francisco to this hamlet. I visit often, and I might be next to relocate.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

How are you feeling about the latest mask rules for public transit in your area?

Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your thoughts.

The much-anticipated Battery Bluff park in the Presidio in San Francisco opened over the weekend.

The six-acre site features gardens, picnic tables and a majestic view of the Golden Gate.

“I’m in awe of this view, and the magic of what I feel today,” said Mayor London Breed, according to SFGate.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: group of lions (five letters).

Soumya Karlamangla, Jonah Candelario and Jack Kramer contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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