Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Report: Homeless man died of meth overdose

01_07_Milk_Movie_52_lrgThe homeless man found dead in San Francisco’s Castro district this summer died of an accidental meth overdose, the medical examiner’s office has found.

James Welch, 38, who had “no fixed address,” was found July 28 on the sidewalk in front of a residential building at 3976 18th Street, the medical examiner’s report, which was released Wednesday, September 23, says.

At about 5 a.m., Welch “was seen sleeping on the sidewalk, atop a sleeping bag and blanket,” the report says.

A few hours later, at 11:25, a neighbor heard Welch, who was still lying down, “moaning,” and bystanders soon found him “unresponsive,” according to the city.

Paramedics arrived a minute later, and “CPR was initiated but to no avail.” Welch was pronounced dead at 11:30, the report says.

Welch had a history of “schizoaffective disorder, methamphetamine, enlarged kidneys, tobacco, alcohol, and hepatitis C virus,” the medical examiner’s office says in its filing, which cites information from police, paramedics, medical records, and others.

Investigators at the scene at 1:28 p.m. found Welch covered with a yellow emergency blanket.

“[N]o evidence of external trauma was found,” according to the report, and “No evidence of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drug use, or medications was found at the scene.”

However, the agency determined Welch had died from “acute methamphetamine intoxication.” Hepatitis C was listed by “other conditions.”

Welch was cremated and his ashes were sent to his mother, the report indicates.

For several months, the city has had a homeless death review committee to examine deaths such as Welch’s to see if there are ways service providers can be more helpful.

Sam Dodge, deputy director of the city’s Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement office, said in an email exchange today (Wednesday, September 30) with the Bay Area Reporter that the committee looked at Welch’s case at its last meeting.

“Even though the [medical examiner’s] report was not finalized we had a lot to go over for him,” Dodge said. The panel reviewed Welch’s shelter use and contacts with the city’s Homeless Outreach Team and medical personnel, “and they seem to point to an absence from the City for a period of years.”

Dodge had indicated the information he can share on cases is limited.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 30, 2015 @ 4:10 pm PST
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