Remembrance project needs $10,000 by mid-January
When it comes to remembering homeless people in King County in 2009, two figures stand out: 29, which equals the number of homeless people who died this year; and $10,000, the amount of a challenge grant to construct a Homeless Place of Remembrance.
The challenge comes from the Kenneth and Marleen Alhadeff Foundation, which will put up $10,000 if the remembrance project can raise the same amount by Jan. 15, 2010. "By recognizing those who have lost their lives to homelessness, we dignify their spirit and," the challenge letter states, "dignify our own."
Carol Cameron, remembrance project committee chair, says that efforts to have a memorial place began in 2003. At the time, Cameron says she was a member of Women in Black, which held vigil for homeless people who died. But when Women in Black attempted to hand out flyers to passersby, she says people usually refused them or tossed them in the trash. "So often homeless people are stereotyped as throwaways," she says, "like a piece of paper."
With a collective realization that a significant form of remembrance was needed, Cameron says the group first considered a memorial garden, but then forewent that idea for a more substantial project. In a unanimous November 2005 vote, City Council threw support behind placing the remembrance on public land. After a discernment process of 10 potential sites several months later, homeless people overwhelmingly chose Victor Steinbrueck Park, just north of Pike Place Market. The committee approved a design for a "Tree of Life," which includes an illuminated sculpture, glass root plaza, pavement and plantings. In the future, the sculpture may be complemented by a secondary project, known as "Leaves of Remembrance": artistic renderings of leaves, placed in various city locations, that will bear the names of homeless people who have died.
But fundraising remains critical to the initial project breaking ground, which could happen as soon as summer 2010. The committee won a $54,000 matching grant from the Department of Neighborhoods, due in mid-January. The $10,000 Alhadeff Foundation challenge will help the committee fulfill that Neighborhoods matching grant. If the committee cannot meet the deadline, the project will be delayed.
Such an outcome, says Cameron, would mean the community would have nowhere to mourn. "There's still this lack of public place," says Cameron, "this need that everyone feels to go and remember someone they've lost."
New mayor, new chief
Mayor-elect Mike McGinn takes office on Mon., Jan. 4 -- that's him, in caricature, on this week's cover -- and he's relaunching a search to fill one of the most important jobs in the city: Chief of Police.
McGinn has re-formed a search committee made up of 25 public officials, neighborhood leaders and advocates for immigrants and domestic violence victims. It's co-chaired by Downtown Seattle Association president Kate Joncas and Charles Rolland, director of the education reform group Community and Parents for Public Schools of Seattle. The committee, which also includes representatives from the ACLU of Washington, the Seattle Police Officers Guild and Mothers for Police Accountability, holds its first meeting Jan. 13 -- nearly 10 months since former police chief Gil Kerlikowske was nominated to direct the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels had begun a search for Kerlikowske's replacement; he had also appointed Joncas as committee co-chair. Nickels suspended the process after he lost his chance for a third term in the Aug. 18 primary election.