Five women, dressed mostly in black, stood in silent vigil on the steps of the Seattle Municipal Courthouse on Fifth Avenue and Cherry Street on Aug. 24, staring into the eastern-facing windows of City Hall while another volunteer handed out fliers.
On that hot Seattle summer day, the Women in Black honored two homeless people who had been shot and killed in Kent, Washington, almost two weeks prior.
Police suspect that Louisa Campos, 32, and Robert Dias, 50, were killed by the same man, according to the Kent Reporter.
The Women in Black, which is affiliated with the nonprofit organization Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL), have been paying their respects to homeless people who have died on the streets for 16 years.
Beth King-Rios was among the women holding vigil. She moved to Seattle more than a year ago. She spent time on the streets herself before she was able to secure an apartment.
Now she and other members of the organization participate in vigils like these, as well as venturing into The Jungle, a homeless encampment under Interstate 5, to provide food and hygiene supplies.
They call it “Under the Freeway Ministries.”
“It was eye-opening for me,” King-Rios said. “We started going up after the shootings.”
In front of the vigil, another woman in black handed out fliers with the names of each of the 37 homeless people who have died in
King County in 2016. In 2015, the county beat an ignoble record with 67 total deaths.
With fall on the horizon, 2016 could be the same.
Despite the group’s longevity, it was clear on Wednesday that passersby didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. Many turned down the flier, much to King-Rios’ disappointment.
“I wish people would be more receptive,” she said.