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DENVER – An organization that works with people experiencing homelessness said it conducted a study and found the number of people living on the streets who died last year has increased “dramatically” over the previous year.

Colorado Coalition For the Homeless conducts the study every year. The organization found 231 people experiencing homelessness died in 2017, that’s 60 more people than the previous year.

“The increase has been dramatic,” said the organization’s spokesperson Cathy Alderman. “It’s so sad. And it’s really disappointing that in a city as rich as Denver, we are letting people die on the street.”

The organization pulled documents from the Denver Medical Examiner’s Office for the study. The research showed the leading cause of death was drug overdoses, with 68 percent of those deaths specifically from opioid overdoses.

The second leading cause of death was heart disease. The third cause of death was blunt or sharp force trauma.

“It feels like a problem we can’t get ahead of. But I think we have an opportunity to get ahead of it if we had the right policies in place and if we were investing the right resources in the right places,” said Alderman.

Alderman said more people are forced onto the streets in Denver because of the lack of affordable housing. While her organization is striving to make the numbers go down, she believes the number of deaths will increase in 2018.

“Hopefully we see a change in numbers. We would like to see a decrease in those numbers but I think the way we are going unfortunately we may not,” said Alderman.

It’s estimated there are 5,116 men, women and children experiencing homelessness in the metro Denver region. The organization said 1,117 people experiencing homelessness have died in Denver since 2008.