Seattle Design Festival Installation August 2019 Seattle Washington
A fence, barrier or wall... physical archetypes of division that permeate popular discourse. Sometimes seen as a symbol of status, like the white picket fence of middle class homeownership. In the city of Seattle a frequent symbol of change in the form of construction fencing. It also carries with it the connotation of exclusion when its deployed under an overpass or adjacent to the green space along the I-90 or I-5 corridor.
In Memoriam - in memory of, commemorates the 148 men and women of King County, who died without a place to call home between the 21st of September 2018 to the 16th of August 2019. The dates which coincide with the end of last years Seattle Design Festival to the start of this year’s activities. Western red cedar pickets, whitewashed then sheared over a steel bar are reassembled as individual monuments, like a roadside cross, to remember each name on the adjacent list.
The King County Community Health Needs Assessment of 2018/2019 found the life expectancy rate for a
person in our region was 81.9 years. The individuals remembered in this project had an average life of 48.6 years. Of these 148 homeless people, only Catherine Scott exceeded that life expectancy; she passed away at 84. Her cross can be seen on the wall without whitewash treatment.
King County Indigent Remains Program
Since 1993 King County has provided free burials for the homeless who’s remains are left unclaimed or that their families do not have the finical means to provide for a proper funeral. In most instances, the bodies are cremated and stored in the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. A mass burial is scheduled about every two years at Mt Olivet Cemetery in Renton WA. The last funeral occurred on the 10th of July this year.
Although buried in a large group, the remains are held in individual urns and carefully mapped in the event a family member returns to claim them in the future. A marker for each indigent group burial reads ‘Gone But Not Forgotten These People of King County’ with a date of the internment.
In 2018, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office investigated the deaths of 194 individuals presumed to be homeless. This represents a fifteen percent increase from the prior year.
Women in Black
In 2000, WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League), a grass roots organizing effort of homeless/ formerly homeless women, founded Women in Black vigils. To honor and remember homeless people who die outside, in a public place, or by violence in King County. Whenever a death becomes known, the Women in Black stand an hour-long silent vigil in front of the Municipal Courthouse at noon the following Wednesday.
To join the Women in Black vigils, please call 206 956 0334 or email
Homeless Remembrance Project
In 2003, Women in Black, joined together with faith-based supporters, design professionals, social service providers and homeless people to form a Homeless Remembrance Committee. They created a permanent memorial to honor people who have experienced homelessness and died in King County. Across the city, bronze Leaves of Remembrance bearing the name and dates of person are placed in the public right away (sidewalk), currently at 16 different host locations. These Leaves have fallen from the Project’s Tree of Life Sculpture and gathering place in Victor Steinbrueck Park. Anyone can request a Leaf in honor of their lost one’s memory. Currently, there is a backlog of more than 100 Leaves that have yet to be dedicated.
For more information on the Homeless Remembrance Project or to see how to donate or support this project, please visit their websites.