WHEEL Women in Black stand vigil whenever a homeless person dies outside or by violence in King County. Since 2000, we stood vigil for 830 people. In 2018, the King County Medical Examiner and King County Public Health did an in-depth review of five years of deaths, 2012-2017, and found 162 people who had not been recognized as homeless at the time of their death. WHEEL researched these deaths and found that 82 of them were outside or by violence. These are people we would have stood vigil for at the time of their death, had we known. We chose this special time, the Summer Solstice, to name and honor them. This day symbolizes, for us, the long hard day for homeless people, and the growing darkness we are sliding into.

There are now 912 homeless people who died outside or by violence in King County since 2000, that we know of — 53 already in 2018.

Reverend Pat Simpson led our ceremony.


This is the longest day of the year in our hemisphere, the northern part of Earth in its orbit tilting toward the Sun. The shortest day and longest night are at the Winter Solstice in December, which we mark with a tradition of candle lighting at the Tree of Life gathering place near the Market. But it’s not only in the dark we need hope. We need it now amidst the continual suffering of people who are homeless, and the harsh, heartless public rhetoric swirling around us.

Today we will name and remember 82 homeless men and women whose deaths were inadvertently overlooked until an in-depth Homeless Death Review was published earlier this year.

To help us ponder their life and death today, we have water and stones. In four movements, we will have a short meditation, and then slowly read a group of names. For each person a stone will be put in the bowl of water, which will spill over as the stones take its place. A time of silence will follow until the next meditation.

I want to begin by teaching you a song of remembrance. (It has God in it, so if that’s not right for you, revise as you like.) During the song you can pick up a stone or two to be prepared for the naming.

You are not forgotten. You are not forgotten. You are not forgotten.
God knows your name. God knows your name.

FIRST MOVEMENT – Water of Life

Earth’s “water cycle” is driven by the sun. Ocean water evaporates in the heat and forms clouds. Snow and rainwater waters crops and fills rivers and aquifers, bringing us food and drink. The life of our water-filled bodies depends utterly on this cycle of sun and water. So on this Solstice day as we remember the dead, let us begin with gratitude for the gift of life.

 

Ladonna Berry, William Smith, Paul Dosier, Angel Rodriguez, Jerry Otto, Walter Backstrom, Charles Mealing, Wayne Clark, George Bolling III, Karen McCray, Robert Robertson, Michael Delys, Anthony Webb,
Michael Cartwright, Grzegorz Jaszczanin, Kimberly Koehn, Shannon Casey, Kenny Maines, Derek Anijo, Franklin Myricks, Robert Lisson

 

Silence


SECOND MOVEMENT – Tears

Our grief for these lives lost overflows in saltwater tears. Even more for close friends and loved ones of those we name today. We cry also for the brokenness of our community when anyone goes without a home.

 

April Wahl, Eric Wolff, Stephen Tryc, Shawn Hoflack, Jeremiah Woods, Frank Abbott, Jack Burke, Michael Stefanich, Kelly Chevalier, Merlin Warnick, Jose Estrada, William Patterson, Stacy Butrico, Craig Erickson, James Deng, Lorne Thompson, Simon King, Michael Martin, Dale Todd, Courtney Morrison-Price

 

Silence


 

THIRD MOVEMENT – Springs of Water

In the desert places where many of our religious traditions were formed, water is scarce and precious. Where it wells up a life-giving oasis forms, with shade, protection and refreshment. From this environment the great religions share an ethic of hospitality: strangers who walk up to your camp or settlement must be welcomed, because their lives may depend on it.

Even in our wet climate we have an oasis wherever community and love grow. Tree of Life is such a gathering place, with the glass underfoot like a pool of water. There is an oasis wherever community springs up among homeless people, as they care for each other and find some joy.

Dale Svrko, Michael Howard, Philip Thompson, Clarence Tuley, Bobby Ray Smith Sr, Jason Steele, Gilberto Lira-Garcia, Crystal Bauwens, Lewis Zeigler, Michael Krobath, Robert Blenkner, Howard Zang, Dentrel Hubbard, Robin Mingia, Ricardo Reyes, Isaac Songer, Anthony Finklea, Alexander Ornelas, James Wilson, Denise Desa, Michael Taylor, Christopher Brewster

Silence


FOURTH MOVEMENT – Let Justice Roll Down

The Hebrew prophet Amos cried out “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!” As these stones make the water spill over, so the impact of each person’s life flows out to those around them and continues when they’re gone. May our remembrance today also overflow – in a mighty determination to act for justice.

James Goodboe Jr, John Turner, Jonah Dellinger, Kathy Harris, Herman Phillips Jr, William Bailes, Andre Wilson, Frederick Williams, Deanna Simon, Dillon Graham, Stephen Tucker, George Kerns, Paul Starotska, Jason Nannini, Floyd Angeline, Jon Olson, Jesse Gjerde, Luciano Salvador Placido, Arturo Acuna

Silence


Sing: They are not forgotten…

You are invited to  come dip your hand in the water as a sign of commitment to action.

(The bowl was then emptied at the foot of the tree, Many of us then stood the rest of the hour in silent vigil.)

 

 

 

 

Details of these 82 deaths

 

Leave a Comment

Featured Leaf, July ’18

Iris Cloud (Photo courtesy of DESC)

Categories
Related Sites
  • Homeless Remembrance Project The main site of the Homeless Remembrance Project, with much more about the Tree of Life.
  • Mary's Place The only day center where homeless women can go with their children & co-sponsor of Women in Black.
  • WHEEL WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality & Enhancement League) is a grassroots organizing effort of homeless women.