Deaths of unhoused people in Milwaukee rising

By: - November 24, 2022 5:42 am
person sitting alone on the street at night, dark depression

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Deaths among unhoused Milwaukeeans are rising, according to the Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s Office. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the medical examiner’s office has recorded 52 deaths of unhoused people in 2021, up from 21 in 2018. The Sentinel references data obtained by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

Data for January and February suggest that the county may again set a high bar for deaths among unhoused Milwaukeeans. A leading cause of the deaths appears to be  opioids, particularly fentanyl. However, It’s hard to get an  exact count  of people who are living on the streets in Wisconsin’s largest city.

In recent years hMilwaukee’s unhoused population has become more introverted. Rather than massing together in parks or under highways, unhoused Milwaukeeans are seeking out  more secluded areas. This makes tracking the number of unhoused people in the city more difficult, and tracking their deaths is no easier. Last October, the unhoused outreach group Street Angels noted that it was encountering nearly 500 unique people per week struggling with being unhoused.

Evictions are also on the rise in Milwaukee County. Just in time for the holidays, Milwaukee is seeing its first major eviction spike since March. According to Eviction Lab, as of Nov. 5 partial eviction filings in Milwaukee are 65% higher than average. The last time evictions were so high in the city was in February, when eviction filings were 81% higher than average.


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.