Women in Black History

WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League)

In the year 2000, WHEEL (the Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League), a grassroots organizing effort of homeless/formerly homeless women, founded Women in Black vigils for homeless people who die in King County.

When we began 19 years ago, we prayerfully and deliberately decided to stand only for homeless people who died outside or by violence, since these deaths should shock our moral conscience, but are often either ignored or treated with victim-blaming contempt.

Over the years we’ve developed good relations with the King County Medical Examiners Office (MEs). We are grateful to their office and their excellent and compassionate staff.  They now study homeless deaths, and publish monthly lists of homeless deaths to us and other stakeholders.

The MEs Office monthly lists include both indoor and outdoor deaths, and are issued with a caveat:  that they have made a determination of “likely homeless,” and that the designation of “no permanent address” doesn’t necessarily confirm homeless status.  Their list should not be considered comprehensive, since sometimes names are redacted at a family’s request, or for other reasons.

Our Women in Black lists are only outdoor/violent deaths, and we make that determination (outdoor, violent) as best we can with the information available.  We consider suicide to be an act of violence.  We learn of deaths from the MEs lists, but also from newspaper reports and from word of mouth.  Our lists often do not exactly match the MEs lists.  Any errors on our Women in Black lists are ours to own, and not the fault of the MEs.

In 2018, there are 118 names on our Women in Black list. These are outdoor or violent deaths only. Sometimes, some of the Women in Black names are not on the MEs list.

In 2018, there are now 191 names on the Medical Examiners Death list—these are indoor AND outdoor/violent deaths.

For information, or to join our notification list for vigils & Action Alerts:
(206) 956-0334
Homeless Remembrance Project on Facebook